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David Foster produced Celine and Whitney, but what he really wants is an EGOT

David Foster is photographed at the Toronto International Film Festival, in Toronto, on Sunday , September 8, 2019. For all the accolades showered on Foster throughout his carreer - 16 Grammys and an Emmy among them - the Canadian music producer is still thirsty for more.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO — For all the accolades showered on David Foster throughout his career — 16 Grammys and an Emmy among them — the Canadian music producer is still thirsty for more.

Early in a new documentary on his illustrious career, Foster says aloud what few of his peers would probably ever admit: “Nobody wants the EGOT more than me.”

It comes across a bit cocky, but also honest, considering the 69-year-old is still missing half of the elusive bragging right, bestowed on an entertainer who has won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony.

“Do you think that’s egotistical? Or do you think that’s self-prophesying?” Foster asks during a recent interview as he leans in to make intense eye contact.

“There’s some people that get it really easily and shouldn’t.”

Foster says he doesn’t want to start calling out his peers. But he doesn’t have a Tony or an Oscar yet, and this is a sticking point in “David Foster: Off the Record,” which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival last month and begins a limited nationwide theatrical run next week before landing on CTV and Crave in November.

His losses were part of his shtick at a film festival fundraiser dinner where he entertained a crowd of elites with a mock trailer of “Top Gun” that replaced the Oscar-winning Berlin song “Take My Breath Away” with his Oscar-losing song of the same year, the Peter Cetera track “Glory of Love,” from “The Karate Kid Part II.” He argued his work was a far superior piece of music.

He was making the case in jest before his peers, but Foster is dead serious about his awards prospects in conversation.

“I’ve lost at the Oscars three times; I believe at least one of those times I should’ve won,” he says.

In this chat, he’s focused on “The Prayer,” another one of his Oscar contenders that didn’t stick the landing at the Hollywood awards show. The song, which he co-wrote for Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli, was featured in 1998 animated film “Quest for Camelot,” which bombed so big at the box-office that some argue that alone sullied his chances of winning.

There’s also Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing,” which he co-wrote for “The Bodyguard” — another nominee he believes should’ve picked up a trophy.

But for all this talk about should’ve-been moments, Foster is perhaps more invested in the future that’s still in his control.

“I’d like to be able to say I have a hit on Broadway,” he fires into the universe. “I believe in vision boards. You gotta put it out there.”

Foster hasn’t been shy about his Broadway ambitions over the past decade, but the manifestation of his goals hasn’t been easy. He spent years working on a Betty Boop musical that’s stalled numerous times, and though it refuses to die, Foster describes the project that brings the 1930s cartoon character to life as being “in a state of constant flux.”

“We’ve been through three directors and I’ve written so many songs that it’s just becoming annoying at this point,” he says.

“It’s such a great project, but it just can’t seem to find its way.”

Hope seems to be on the horizon though.

Bob Martin, whose career launched at Toronto’s Second City before he won a Tony for “The Drowsy Chaperone,” is taking another swing at the book in hopes of finally bringing it to the public. Whether that actually happens, like most stage shows, is anybody’s guess until the pieces fall into place.

Foster is frustrated by all this uncertainty, partly because he’s a “control freak” used to being the leader in studio recording sessions.

“First of all, in theatre, the person that writes the music is not in charge, so I’ve already lost control,” he says.

“The director having all the control is hard — and just randomly waking up one morning (they’re) going, ‘Yeah, that song doesn’t fit.'”

He’s most optimistic about the prospects of another stage musical in his sights. His songs are being reworked for a project by off-Broadway playwright Todd Almond who’s putting a modern spin on a classic revenge tale. The play is being workshopped under director Kelly Devine, who picked up a Tony nomination for her choreography in “Come From Away.”

Even with two stage productions showing promise, Foster seems cautious about the realities in this corner of the entertainment business.

“Broadway doesn’t take kindly to ‘pop’ people coming in and just sort of thinking they can do it,” he says.

“It is a much harder process than I imagined it would be, but I bought a place in New York and I immersed myself in the culture. I watched my friend Bryan Adams do it with ‘Pretty Woman.’ It can be done.”

Foster draws on his past experiences for reassurance when he feels any sense of discouragement. “The Bodyguard,” he points out, spent more than 15 years in various script stages before it became a blockbuster movie and the best-selling soundtrack of all time.

Dreams do come true, so perhaps the Tony Awards will be in his future, though Foster admits any serious prospects are still “a long way off.”

He hasn’t forgotten about that elusive Oscar win, either.

Once his Broadway aspirations take shape, Foster plans to wiggle his way back into the movie industry by calling up a few old friends.

“I really want to have a song in a movie. I really want to get a shot at that Oscar, ya know,” he says he’ll tell them.

“Fourth time lucky, maybe.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 10, 2019.


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David Friend, The Canadian Press