For six long days, our intrepid correspondent walked through the valley of the shadow of the Hollywood publicity machine. This is the tale she lived to tell . . .
11:55 a.m.: Armed with equipment – including a press pass, notebook and the world’s last functioning analog tape recorder – I enter the steel and concrete canyon of downtown, home of TIFF. The weather is mild, my energy is high. Without warning, I slam into my first U.S. publicist. Suddenly, I find myself pinned under the TIFF promotional boulder, where I will remain trapped for the next five days, fighting for my sanity, subsisting only on hype, celluloid and 40,000 calories’ worth of chocolate bars filched from distributors’ suites.
12 p.m.: Looper press conference. As Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt answer questions about what advice they’d give their younger selves (their movie is about time travel), my recent past comes back to me in a swirl of images: Russian aristocrats having sex. An American president, crippled from polio, having sex. A poet, also crippled from polio, having sex. A French orca trainer having sex, after she’s lost both legs below the knee in a freak accident. A Danish queen having sex with her doctor. Are these my memories? No, they are films I pre-screened for two weeks before TIFF started. (Respectively, Anna Karenina, Hyde Park on Hudson, The Sessions, Rust and Bone, A Royal Affair.) Did I see any films without sex in them?
1:25 p.m.: Bruce Willis interview. He delivers very short answers in a very soft voice. I struggle valiantly to engage him but fail, panting and exhausted.
6:30 p.m.: Cocktail party for Rust and Bone. I say to a French producer, “I want to talk about the sex scene in your movie.” He replies, “Sex? I love it!” Then he whirls away. The film’s star, Marion Cotillard, appears in a snug strapless dress; she’s so beautiful it makes me gasp. I try to approach her dashing co-star, Matthias Schoenaerts, but I can’t penetrate the ring of females who stand three metres away from him – the tacitly agreed-upon distance from which one can stand stock-still and gape at celebrities.
8:30 p.m.: Toronto Film Critics Association cocktail party. I must have blacked out, because I find myself surrounded by familiar faces and drink tickets. I feel a surge of hope.
10 a.m.: Emily Blunt interview. I must have blacked out again, because my head really hurts. Blunt has a great photograph of herself and Willis on location for Looper, both wearing blood-smeared costumes, sitting together under a pink parasol he found for her because he feared she was getting sunburned.
2 p.m.: Cloud Atlas screening. I travel through six lifetimes. It takes three hours.
9 p.m.: The Deep screening. I watch the true story of an Icelandic fisherman as he struggles to stay alive after his ship goes down in frigid waters. I can relate. At the Q&A afterward, an audience member asks its hunky director, Baltasar Kormakur (101 Reykjavik) how he sank the boat. “Basically, we sank the boat,” he replies.
10:30 a.m.: Kormakur interview. Somehow the hunky director and I have made it to the lobby of the Intercontinental Hotel. He wears jeans, boots, a suede jacket. His chin-length salt and pepper hair is slicked back. He looks like the Icelandic Colin Farrell. Suddenly I find I’m extremely interested in Icelandic cinema. He says he did many of the stunts in his movie, including being bashed by waves against a shoreline of razor-sharp lava rock, “because we don’t have stuntmen in Iceland,” he says. Then he adds, “But this is not hard for me.” Mysteriously, every pampered American director in the canyon simultaneously experiences a moment of inadequacy.
4 p.m.: Ben Affleck interview. Affleck hated the seventies hair and beard that he grew for his role as a CIA agent in Argo, which he also directed. He calls the look, “This Davy Jones/Barry Gibb thing on my head.” He also uses the word “exfiltrate,” which I didn’t know was a word.
4:30 p.m.: The Master press conference. Director Paul Thomas Anderson says that, though he was concerned for his star Joaquin Phoenix’s safety when Phoenix, acting rage, smashed a “museum toilet” during a pivotal jail scene, frankly, he was more concerned about getting the shot.
9 p.m.: Thanks for Sharing screening. As I crest the hill behind the Ryerson Theatre, the sky lights up with a thousand flashes. Gwyneth Paltrow is walking the red carpet. When she takes her seat in the theatre, 100 people walk down to the front, turn around, and take cellphone videos of her. To me, sitting three rows behind her, it looks like their faces have been replaced by glowing blue squares. My mind grows weak, wondering who will want to watch 100 videos of Paltrow sitting in a chair.