Even though Kevin Hart botches the pronunciation of Toronto in his upcoming action-comedy The Man From Toronto, he wants to assure everyone who took issue with his hard “T” “Toe-RON-toe” that he meant no disrespect.
“You gotta remember, I’m not from Toronto. If you’re from Toronto, of course you have an understanding of how it’s supposed to be said,” Hart, 42, says with a chuckle in a video call from Ireland.
In the film, out Friday on Netflix, Hart plays a screw-up salesman who mistakenly gets confused with an assassin known only as the Man From Toronto at an Airbnb.
A distinct clash of personalities, and a brush with deadly mercenaries, ensues.
Cheers star Woody Harrelson, who plays the hitman, has been in the city many times over the years, having staged two plays there and attended numerous editions of the Toronto International Film Festival.
“Any time it’s mispronounced to Torontonians, we apologize,” Harrelson, 60, says, hopping on from Italy.
“It’s the name of Woody’s hitman character and all of the people who are referring to him are not from Toronto,” Hart explains. “He’s a world-renowned hitman and the legend of his killings has grown over the years and throughout his career. So, you got to think, everyone was pronouncing it that way — the Man From Miami, the Man from Wichita — it was all over. Everyone is saying Toe-RON-toe because they’re from all over the place.”
The buddy comedy, which also stars Kaley Cuoco, is firmly in Hart’s wheelhouse, following on the light-hearted material from the funnyman’s past comedic hits, including Central Intelligence and the Jumanji films.
For three-time Oscar nominee Harrelson, the quip-filled comedy was an opportunity to work with an actor he has long admired from afar.
“I’m fascinated by Kevin’s life and his work ethic and his ability to be a true businessman,” Harrelson says. “He’s extremely intelligent and he has the ability to be funny at the drop of a hat. That’s something rare and it’s not that easy to do, but he can knock it out of the park every time.”
On a recent Sunday, Hart and Harrelson spoke more about the bond they formed making The Man from Toronto.
Woody, you’ve been to Toronto many times. You’ve staged two plays here and you had a yoga class out in Queen’s Park. What’s your favourite memory from visiting Toronto over the years?
Harrelson: “That one actually. We did the yoga class, which at the time was the biggest yoga class that had ever happened in history. But we didn’t get that in the Guinness Book (of World Records) and now it’s been exceeded. But that was a great experience. Doing the plays there was another wonderful experience, so I love it there.”
You guys have such great chemistry, how did you establish that easy rapport in such a short span of time?
Hart: “I think when you are a good person and you get around good people, great results come out of it. It wasn’t forced. Our conversations flowed and our energy was in sync. I think that comes out on screen. Woody and I got along great right out of the gate. When you’re working a lot of days with someone, you want to be able to laugh and smile. You want to be able to talk and shake hands, so I’m glad I got to meet him. He’s a legend, so this is definitely a major deal for me, and I expressed that to him at the beginning of production and at the end.”
Harrelson: “Aw, that’s very nice. I feel the same way. From the first time I met him, we had such interesting talks. I love him as a person and as a human being and what I see of him as a father and a husband. He’s an extraordinary man.”
Both your characters, they have dreams beyond being a failed salesman and a hitman who’s looking for a way out. They also have a lot of self-doubt. You’re both successes now, but how did you tune out the people who said you’d never make it at the beginning?
Hart: “It’s a natural occurrence in this business to meet people who don’t believe you can do the thing you are setting out to do. I think the biggest asset that one can have is self-belief. Regardless of what you’re hearing on the outside, it’s about what you feel on the inside. Nobody knows what you’re capable of more than you. So, for me, it’s always been about hunkering down and staying true to the goal at hand. If I do that, I’ll get the results on the other side. I’m a firm believer in doing the work and eventually it will pay off.”
Harrelson: “Honestly, I admire Kevin for being so confident. I’ve never seen him have any doubts. Personally, I have a lot of doubts, and I get in my head about that stuff. But looking back, I think I did believe from having a lot of theatre experience that I could go on to do television and movies and such — and, luckily, it happened.”
The Man From Toronto hits Netflix this Friday.