Toronto goes a little bit crazy at film festival time. Fans go ga-ga over the big stars in town, said stars do some serious partying and strange things happen. We can’t recount every weird occurrence from 40 years of TIFF – and there are plenty of them – but these are some of the highlights.
2015: Crowd hates the hug
Sir Patrick Stewart sure seems like a friendly and approachable star, but there are limits.
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One presumed superfan learned that — to her likely embarrassment – after making an overly intimate request.
At a press conference for Green Room, where Stewart plays a neo-Nazi gang leader, a woman stood up and said, “Since I’ll probably never get to do this another time, Patrick, can I have a hug?”
The request wasn’t as cute as she thought. After a second of stunned silence, the crowd booed her down and Stewart moved on to another question.
2011: Clooney’s caustic response
It’s not just the fans who ask silly questions either. Nobody looks to TIFF interviews for hard-hitting media questions, and every year brings fresh headlines of “Actor X responds to reporter’s dumb question.” In 2015, Legend star Tom Hardy captured headlines with his blunt response to a query about his sex life.
But perhaps the most stinging reporter rebuke came in 2011 when George Clooney humiliated a People magazine writer for a silly softball question. Paul Chi asked Clooney what was harder: directing movies or conducting a fairly public Hollywood love life.
Clooney clearly didn’t appreciate the question and embarrassed the hapless reporter with the following exchange:
Clooney: “What’s your name?”
Clooney: “What’s your last name, Paul?”
Clooney: “Everyone remember Paul Chi and his hard-hitting interview. Go back to your editor and tell them you asked that question, Paul.”
2007: Where there’s smoke, there’s ire
In the movie The Game, Sean Penn’s character lights up a cigarette in a fancy San Francisco restaurant, only to be told that it’s illegal in California. His response: “F—k California!”
Life imitated art in 2007 as Penn carelessly smoked through a press conference in the Sutton Place Hotel, despite the provincial ban on smoking during indoor events. Penn took plenty of criticism, and the province’s minister of health promotion admonished TIFF organizers to remind stars about Ontario smoking laws.
Despite the uproar, Penn escaped unpunished. The hotel was fined $600.
2004: Ed Harris explains violence … sort of
You’ll rarely see a press conference go from “lighthearted” to “painfully awkward” to “finished” as fast as this one. In case you couldn’t figure out that the film A History of Violence is about, well violence, actor Ed Harris made a clumsy attempt to explain.
1991: Premiere not a priority for director
The Fisher King isn’t among director Terry Gilliam’s best-received films, and it seems the auteur himself wasn’t too jazzed about it back in 1992. Or at least there was a more entertaining show in town.
Festival organizers were frantic when the director disappeared just before the premiere. He was eventually found at the SkyDome enjoying a Blue Jays game.
In his defence, the Jays were looking pretty good that year, just one year away from their first World Series win. And can you expect a Monty Python member and the creator of Brazil to behave in any rational way?
1987: Giant hassle
TIFF has morphed into a world-class festival that attracts major names, but the biggest star – literally – came to town back in the late ‘80s.
Pro wrestler Andre the Giant came to TIFF in 1987 to help promote The Princess Bride, but his sheer size created headaches for festival personnel. At 7’4″ and weighing over 500 pounds, the French heavyweight couldn’t fit into an average theatre seat, and needed a custom-built one for the movie premiere.
Then-theatre manager Don McKellar, who would go on to a distinguished directorial career, recalled that Andre required a seat exactly twice the size of a normal one.