TORONTO - As the stars of late actor Cory Monteith's final two movies promoted the projects at the Toronto International Film Festival this week, one word continuously cropped up.
"It's bittersweet to watch the film and talk about it because of the situation," said Karine Vanasse, who co-stars with Monteith in "All the Wrong Reasons."
"This whole thing has been really bittersweet," said the film's co-star, Emily Hampshire.
"All the Wrong Reasons" features the Calgary-born, Victoria-raised "Glee" star as a driven department store manager whose wife suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Vanasse plays his spouse, who supervises the store's surveillance feeds and grows close to a new security guard, played by Kevin Zegers. Hampshire plays a cashier who gets cosy to Monteith's character.
Fredericton-born Gia Milani wrote and directed the drama that features Monteith in a more hard-hitting role than many of his fans have seen.
Vanasse said when she viewed the film for the first time during the world premiere at the festival earlier this week, she almost felt the presence of Monteith, who died in July at age 31 of an overdose of heroin and alcohol in Vancouver.
"I think he was almost there last night with us. ... It was as if he was part of the evening as well."
She was also pleased that audience members got to see that Monteith had ambitions of exploring his acting range.
"That was really brave for him to want to do that because you can be that super big TV star and don't want to take any risks, and he didn't want that," said the Quebec star, whose upcoming projects include a guest spot in City's "Revenge," premiering Sept. 29.
"He wanted to challenge himself and do those smaller films that maybe other ones would just say, 'No,' but he said 'Yes.'"
Hampshire said before she met Monteith, she only knew him from his high-school character on "Glee" and was "expecting a sort of teenager to show up."
"Then I meet Cory and he is an adult and a man, and I think that's what he was so excited about, about doing this movie, to finally play a real adult, and I think he really shows a different side of himself in this film," added the Montreal native, whose other films include "The Trotsky" and "Cosmopolis."
"Working with him, now I feel like it was especially a gift to get to know him and have the opportunity to work with him. But he was just himself and lovely and authentic and present, which is something that seems like people should just be that, but it's rare. It's rare to have somebody who's just right there and really honestly themselves and humble.
"And if there was one word for how I remember Cory, it's just 'Grateful.' He was always grateful to be there, which is weird because he was a superstar."
Monteith was also featured in the festival drama "McCanick," playing a street kid whose efforts to better his life after jail are stifled by a vengeful cop, played by David Morse.
Josh C. Waller directed the suspenseful screenplay by Daniel Noah.
"His work is really good and true, and you've got to admire it for that," Morse said before the film's world premiere at the fest.
"It'll be sad to see him (on screen) and know what he had in front of him, what we all could've looked forward to with him, but here you get to see him just doing really excellent work."
The Toronto International Film Festival runs through Sunday.
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