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Toronto 2011: 'Machine Gun Preacher' opens to standing ovation

September 11, 2011 |  8:41 pm


You could feel the collective sigh of relief Sunday night coming from the filmmaker section of Roy Thomson Hall when the credits began to roll for the Toronto International Film Festival screening of "Machine Gun Preacher," the Gerard Butler-starrer about real life ex-con-turned-African-vigilante Sam Childers. The world premiere of the film, which has been a labor of love for all the parties involved — including Butler who says he made a fraction of his regular salary to play Childers — kept audience members rooted to their seats.

They only stood once the final credits rolled, and then it was to give an ovation to the filmmakers. Both Butler and Childers, who attended the festival with his wife, Lynn, stood and grabbed hands for a final curtain call.

The movie centers on Childers, a violent gun-toting ex-con from rural Pennsylvania, who turns his life around after finding Jesus and becomes obsessed with the child massacres occurring half a world away in the Sudan. He starts an orphanage that houses more than 200 children and helps fight the men who have left them orphans. His quest for vengeance and his drive to save the young people comes at great sacrifice to his wife and daughter.

The audience seemed engrossed for the often violent and disturbing film, directed by Marc Forster ("Monster's Ball," "Quantum of Solace") and written by Jason Keller. Having Childers in the audience was a great endorsement too — the 49-year-old Harley Davidson biker has made it clear he would not have been in Toronto had he not liked what he saw on the screen.

Butler, particularly, seemed quite relieved by the response. Once the lights came up, the Scottish actor, announced, "Let's go get a drink."


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— Nicole Sperling

Photo: Gerard Butler salutes fans at the Toronto International Film Festival. Credit: Mike Cassese / Reuters.