Jack of all trades – Allen Altman

A talk with the star of TIFF's 'Incendies', 'Above the Knee' and the upcoming show 'Living in Your Car'.

Jennifer Coxby Jennifer Cox

Jack of all trades - Allen Altman

With two flicks at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival, a role on a new television show, a movie that premieres this fall, and running an interior design company “on the side,” actor Allen Altman demonstrates his creativity through a variety of mediums. Find out more about his various projects and who his favourite Hollywood hottie is.

CraveOnline: Can you tell me about your upcoming TIFF projects?

Allen Altman: Well first there’s Incendies, which is based on the play Scorched. The world premiere is in Venice this week, and then the North American premiere will be at TIFF. The story is very complex and epic about two kids who are looking for the origins of their mother and why she didn’t have a relationship with them – my character comes in at a point when they receive two letters and are sent on an adventure to the Middle East. I’m kind of like a detective/lawyer/notary – I make sense of the whole thing for them. It’s a beautiful film by director Denis Villeneuve, who pretty much won everything as far as awards go.

And then there’s Above The Knee directed by Greg Atkins, and it’s a very fun short that takes a look at reality and turns everything upside down. It’s an ordinary day when a guy ends up wanting something different, so he goes to work in a skirt – the short is about the reactions of his friends and coworkers. I play his best friend and co-worker and I’m not very nice to him about the whole thing (laughs). It’s very touching and makes you think of things in a different way so you can break your social conventions.

Crave: And then I understand you’re also a part of the TV show Living in Your Car – can you tell me about that?

Allen: I was shooting that this week actually… It’s an HBO Canada show directed by David Steinberg, who directed some of the episodes including the pilot and finale, and I was in both. He creates a cool atmosphere so we can improvise, and the show is awesome – it’s a very funny tongue-in-cheek way of looking at the corporate world. I own a company with the guy who ends up living in his car – the company goes under, we go to jail and he ends up living in his car. It’s all under-handed and nasty but it’s really funny.

Crave: What is your upcoming flick?

Allen: It’s a fall movie called Wandering Eye and it’s a thriller. We shot it in Montreal this summer with Amanda Righetti (who’s on The Mentalist) and I play a criminal profiler. It’s coming out in December for The Movie Network and another station.

Crave: I understand you’re from Montreal- do you have a place there? And do you miss it now that you live in Toronto?

Allen: I had a place in Montreal up until about two years ago. I’ve been working in Montreal quite a bit, which is nice. I miss it sometimes but I love Toronto – it’s really become home for me.

Crave: You’re a big Bikram yoga fan – what is Bikram yoga? How did you get into it?

Allen: Bikram yoga is the original “hot yoga.” It’s based on a sequence of 26 postures and you do it in a 45-degree room. There have been a lot of imitations but this one is very much based on what it does to your body because of the particular sequences.

I got into it because I ruptured my bicep a few years ago, I was doing physical therapy, and I got bored. It was really good and helped me rebuild my strength – it grounds you and helps you find a comfortable place for yourself.

Crave: Is it true you run an interior design firm?

Allen: I started doing that a couple of years ago and went back to school at night. It was supposed to be a fill-in – acting is my first love so I never really thought it would turn into such a huge thing. People really like what I do – it’s very flattering. The majority of my clients are other actors – well, co-stars (laughs). But right now I’m working on two places – a dentist’s office and a home.

Crave: With your hands in so many projects, what haven’t you done that you’d like to?

Allen: There are so many amazing directors I still want to work with. One thing I’m really looking forward to is getting a regular series as a lawyer. I’m a huge fan of Law and Order and always wanted to do that.

Crave: What accomplishment in your life are you most proud of?

Allen: Probably being a good friend and a good son – I don’t know if that sounds “hokey” but I never set out to do anything for the money or the glory – it was for the creativity of it. My friends and family have been always been supportive of that.

Crave: You’ve worked with some beautiful leading ladies (Penelope Cruz, Charlize Theron) – any favourites?

Allen: One of my favourites is was when I did a French TV series years ago and I worked with Joelle Morin – she was fantastic and fun. Charlize Theron and Penelope Cruz are easy on the eyes too (laughs). The girl I just worked with, Amanda Righetti, is a beautiful, wonderful actor, and so kind. In-between takes and filming days we’d talk about life and hopes and I thought this is really where I want to be – I want to be in a film environment working with these people. She’s just lovely – I really appreciated her generosity.

Crave: Are you excited for TIFF?

Allen: I’m looking forward to it like everyone else – the wonderful movies and meeting everyone and seeing people I worked with. It’s a fun life experience and it’s such a special thing – we’re so lucky to have that in Toronto.

I’m going as a fan – I’m such a big fan of Denis Villenueve – it’s incredible to me that I’m a star in one of his films.