Patricia Arquette had to call out her own bias for thinking Camila Morrone was "too pretty" to star in her directorial debut, Gonzo Girl.
While introducing her new film at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival, the Oscar winner thanked her leading lady but admitted that she'd initially judged Morrone on looks alone.
"When I first saw her audition it was so incredible, but I thought, 'Is she too pretty?'" Arquette said. "And then I thought, 'Wait a minute. Wait a minute. I have my own self-conscious bias. Why am I trying to say, "No, you just get to be pretty, that's all you can be"?' That's not right."
Arquette praised the star for proving beauty and acting prowess are not mutually exclusive. "You gave this incredible performance. You have this gift to give and this thing in your heart that you want to share," Arquette said. "No, I'm not gonna hold her back. And her performance is incredible. I really thank you, Cami, for all you brought."
Darren Eagles/Getty Willem Dafoe, Patricia Arquette, and Camila Morrone at the 'Gonzo Girl' premiere during the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Gonzo Girl, which also stars Arquette, Willem Dafoe, and Elizabeth Lail, is based on Cheryl Della Pietra's semi-autobiographical novel about her summer working as an assistant to author Hunter S. Thompson. In the movie, aspiring writer Alley Russo (Morrone) is handpicked to be the latest in a string of assistants to the father of gonzo journalism, Walker Reade (Dafoe), as he struggles to work on his new novel.
The project was granted a SAG-AFTRA interim agreement for the stars to be able to promote the film amid the actors' strike, so several members of its cast, including Morrone and Dafoe, also attended the TIFF world premiere.
During a cast Q&A following the screening, Morrone said as soon as she'd learned the film was Arquette's directorial debut, she wanted to be part of it, even before Dafoe was attached.
"I sent in my audition and I just prayed and prayed and prayed, and I didn't hear anything for, like, two months, so I just assumed that I hadn't gotten the role," she recalled. "Then on my birthday, I woke up with a phone call that Patricia Arquette chose me to play Alley Russo in Gonzo Girl. I couldn't believe it."
The actress said she went into the experience wanting to absorb as much as she could from Arquette and Dafoe. "For a newcomer like me, I just didn't ever expect in my life to get to work with people at their level and masters of their craft," she said, standing between the pair on stage. "I went into this just wanting to be a sponge and learn as much as I could from these people whose talent I admire, but also their career and their filmography. I just was like, 'I'm here, I'm ready, teach me everything.'"
Gonzo Girl does not yet have a theatrical release date, but several more screenings will take place throughout the festival. Watch Arquette's introduction and the cast Q&A below.
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