Generally I'm not much of a TIFF guy. I'm still waiting for BIFF (Brampton International Film Festival).
It's not that I have anything against the festival, its just a busy time of year for Mr. TV Feeds My Family, what with all those new fall premieres and all. Nevertheless, I managed to crash a few of this year's Toronto International Film Fest deals, including Sunday's annual BBQ and schmooze-fest at the Canadian Film Centre's historic Winfields Estate.
"E.P. Taylor would probably have a fit if he saw all the people here today," host and ageless CFC mentor Norman Jewison said from the back yard podium looking out over the grounds, where 2000 people were stomping all over the lawn.
Not to mention the zillion cars parked on the grassy hills. I'm sure Mr. Taylor would not have been pleased to see the mighty Neon 2000 leaking oil all over his field.
The star attraction was Jack Bauer, a.k.a. Kiefer Sutherland (seen making his Town Car getaway), cool in a suit despite the hot sunshine. Sutherland was there to accept his appointment as Chair of CFC Actors Conservatory. The busy 24 star/executive producer has committed to lending his famous name to the CFC's on-screen training program and will even pop in for a few lectures during the five month session (which begins in just over a week). I can see him lecturing to these students now: "WHAT IS YOUR MISSION, DAMMIT!!" "WHY IS YOUR ESSAY NOT DOUBLE SPACED!!!!!"
The other good news for Slawko Klymkiw, the former CBC programming boss fitting in nicely as exec director of the CFC, was that the feds and the province have together invested almost $7 million in spiffing up the Centre's fixer-upper of a mansion. The place could stand a paint job, not to mention a few editing bays. Three new building are to be constructed on the grounds. The money came out of that recession-bustin' $1.84 billion Infrastructure Stimulus Fund. Look for CTV and Global to start building stuff, fast! Hey, if I build a blog-o-sphere, can I get in on this?
Many of the usual suspects were at the BBQ. Director Gail Harvey (The Line) was there with her adorable actress/daughter Katie Boland. Canwest suits Walter Levitt and Barb Williams made the scene (the cash-strapped network somehow kicked in on the Kiefer deal). Colin Mochrie was on the grounds, as was the actress busy Being Erica, Erin Karpluk. My hockey buddy, Rent-A-Goalie producer Chris Szarka, was there with his family, including eight-week-old son. Former MuchMusic boss David Kines worked the grounds and gave props to the band (Hamilton rockers The Arkells). Heard literary agent Michael Levine was on the lawn but missed him, dammit. Tonya Lee Williams still looks young and restless. Boy, Rob Salem's right, this is exhausting!
Tons of CFC grads were herded in their own private pen, set up conveniently close to the Lick's burger tents. Hey, if your name was built on beef burgers, no fair with the veggie or chicken-only choices. Fortunately, CFC publicity queen Tamara MacKeigan knew where the fries doused in duck sauce were stashed.
Last Thursday night, I scored an invitation to the TIFF opening gala at Roy Thompson Hall, sponsored for the 22nd year by the folks at Astral TV (Teletoon, The Movie Network, etc.). The opening film this year was not a Canadian title for once (guess that new Trailer Park Boys flick wasn't ready) but Creation, a UK feature about the 19th century scientist, author and monkey boy Charles Darwin. Husband and wife actors Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly turned in moving performances as Mr. and Mrs. D.
There was some overheated whoop-dee-doo later when the stars skipped the Astral mix and mingle reception and went straight from the red carpet to the screening. Astral prez John Riley--a big ham bone who does shtick at this thing every year--stood behind a podium and joked that he was going to introduce the pair anyway. He then pulled out a couple of 8 x 10s, read their names (along with the names of the director and producer of the film). When he got to Connelly's he ripped it in half, joking she had made a liar out of him by ditching his pre-show after he told his kids he was going to meet her. The guests laughed politely and made a bee-line for the free popcorn.
Well, the next day, big crocodile tears from Ms. Connelly. She fed the press some line about skipping the Astral bits and bites because it was the first anniversary of her father's death. WTF?? Anyway, she and Bettany did manage to wave to the crowd from the stage and stick around for the film. She looked pretty hot in her see-through crimson dress, another shout out to her dad no doubt.