Barney's Version Movie

A dance off with Dustin Hoffman during the making of Barney's Version

Cle Bennett is one of the most beautiful men I have ever met. Far more importantly, he's had a dance-off with Dustin Hoffman. "We were shooting a wedding reception scene, and Dustin and I were in the background really, as the current shot was on Paul (Giamatti), and Minnie (Driver). Anyway, we were both paired with lovely dance partners, and we were doin' our ballroom thang, but after the first take Dustin says: "Pfft! I beat you there, man!" I was like: "Oh, it's like that?!" 'Cause I didn't realize we were battling!

Not one to step down from a challenge, I stepped my game up on the next take - a couple of twirls, and whatnot - and decisively clinched the rematch! "Best two outta three!" he says. On the third take it was intense, man! We weren't even lookin' at our girls, we were locked in a face-off, as well as a dance-off - hahaha! We were goin' at it move for move, and as the scene came to a close, it seemed like it would be a tie....until at the last second, dude swings his partner into a wicked spin, followed by a death defying dip over his knee, and twirls her back up again like...like somethin' out of a movie!

I totally got served. His exclaiming: "Ha! Gotcha, sucka!" while pointing in my face, only served to punctuate the moment, before our high-five truce. Dustin Hoffman is the greatest."

This year, Cle is attending TIFF as a star of one of it's most anticipated films, co-starring Mr. Hoffman, Barney's Version, based on the prize-winning Mordecai Richler novel of the same name. Shot in Rome and Montreal, the film centers around Barney Panofsky played by Paul Giamatti. Barney's candid confessional spans four decades and two continents, and includes three wives (Rosamund Pike, Minnie Driver and Rachelle Lefevre), one outrageous father (Dustin Hoffman) and a charmingly dissolute best friend (Scott Speedman). Cle plays Cedric Richardson in the film, a Casanova, who roams with Barney Panofsky's gang of bohemian artists in Europe.

Cle is the hardest working person I know. Born and raised in Toronto, he is known as one of the most vibrant and exciting actors working in Canada today. Over dinner he tells me how busy he's been lately, with upcoming appearances on a number of shows, including Lost Girl, which premieres this fall on Showcase, and the hit CBC series Republic of Doyle.

He also stars along with acclaimed actor Callum Keith Rennie (24, Californication), Molly Parker (The Road, Deadwood) and Gemini-Award winning actor, Camille Sullivan (Intelligence, Da Vinci's Inquest) in the Canadian-based hour long television series Shattered, premiering on Global TV on September 1st. On top of that, he's just been nominated for not one, but two Geminis; for Best Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries (Guns) and for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Supporting Role in a Dramatic Series (The Line).

How did he become such a success? He answers me via email.

Cle, how do you stay so gorgeous?

Well, basically it's a two-step process - Hahaha! I'm playin'! There's no way you're gonna get me to answer that, I'm sorry! I'm flattered - but, ahh no - I'm sorry! Moving on!

What are the secrets of your success?

Well...if I tell you, then... Hahaha! Damn, are we 0 for 2? I'll answer the next one, f'real! I promise!

You've always been very quietly confident. Was that something you had to learn or were you born that way?

I think my confidence is a by-product of my dedication to the craft, and my intense preparation when it comes time to showcase it. As far as "quiet" is concerned, well - I've learned that it doesn't really matter what you say, if you can't deliver. So, I prefer to let my work speak for itself.

How do you stay so focused? Do certain areas of your life suffer?

It's not easy staying focused, but I understand that this is a competitive profession and it's the price I have to pay in order to get what I want. Do I have a lot of time to go out and have "fun" on the weekends, or whenever? Not really. But, when I wake up Monday morning, I get to do exactly what I want to do, and for me being able to pursue my passion is worth the sacrifice.

What was working on Barney's Version like?

It just felt great to be working amongst actors whom I have a profound respect for. Working with them in Rome, and in Montreal amplified the experience!

What, other than how to dance, did you learn from Dustin Hoffman?

Hahaha! I learned that I was right to follow my passion. Here's a guy who's been doing this forever, and there's not a hint of him being tired of it! He's in his element, in top form, and he loves it! I hope to experience that later on.

What are you most looking forward to about TIFF?

Just being in the mix - seeing old friends, making new ones, all that good stuff! Oh, and seeing Barney's Version! Heard it's supposed to be good!

How surprised were you to be nominated for not one, but two Geminis?

I was totally surprised! But, hey - I worked so hard on those projects, so to be recognized for both is an honor!

At such an exciting time in your career, what do you think the future holds? What do you hope it holds?

I think the future holds a lot more for me. I see me doing more of the same, except on a bigger, and broader scale. I've just gotta stay focused, and continue on the path that I've set for myself!

Writing by Katherine Boland


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