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Director Tarsem Singh becomes enchanted with a fabled French-Canadian city
It’s a hot, humid early autumn day in Montreal, and in a city known for its frigid weather, Tarsem Singh is directing a winter forest scene on a massive soundstage — with salt standing in for snow. He’s been here for roughly a year and a half working on Mirror, Mirror, his Snow White adaptation (with Julia Roberts playing the evil queen), which at the moment is a testament to the magic of moviemaking: an Indian-born director shooting a winter scene from a German fairy tale on a steamy day in French Canada.
Hailed for bringing a dramatic, colorful touch to films like The Fall and the forthcoming Immortals, Singh (who goes by just his first name within the industry) came to Canada’s second biggest city “purely for financial reasons,” he says, with the plan to shoot everything on soundstages. He chose Montreal on the recommendation of his friend David Fincher, the exacting director of The Social Network, and recalls, “I said to myself, ‘If Fincher thinks it’s OK, I’ll probably love it, because I can suffer a lot more fools than he can.’”
But little did Singh know just how much he’d love it: Late into production, he met a local woman and they started dating. He also, as these things go, became enamored with his new flame’s hometown. “Before I met her, I always drove,” he explains. “But this summer, all we used was BIXI [the city’s public bike system], and I absolutely adore it. I don’t think there’s another city in the world made for cycling like Montreal. In the past three months, I’ve probably seen more than I did in the last year. I know the city like the back of my hand now.”
His only regret is that the romance sparked so late in the shoot, now wrapped (the film is due for release next year). “I keep thinking, ‘Why didn’t I find her in the beginning?’” he says, and laughs. “I don’t believe in fairy tales — but I do wish it’d happened more conveniently.” —MATTHEW HAYS