Friday, 6:30 p.m., Princess of Wales theatre: King Street is chaos as Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender walk the red carpet for the world premiere of their film 12 Years a Slave, a true story and graphic look at the brutality one man suffered on a Louisiana plantation. Inside, half an hour after the scheduled start time, Cameron Bailey begins his introduction: “My great-great grandparents were involved in plantation slavery,” he says. “and chances are yours were too.” Pause. “One way or another.” During the film, audience members gasp, recoil, cover their eyes; a few even walk out. But the applause starts before the credits roll, and the standing ovation is prolonged and emotional.
Pitt, a producer and star of the film, takes the mic at the Q&A. The film’s British director, Steve McQueen, “was the first to ask, ‘Why aren’t there more films about slavery in America?’” Pitt recalled. “It’s a big question, and it took a Brit to ask it. If I never get to participate in another film again, this one’s it for me, this is enough.”
Pitt’s character, a humane carpenter and abolitionist, earned applause in the middle the film, by the way, when he uttered this line: “I come from Canada.”
Saturday, 1 p.m., Trump Hotel: Writer/director Jason Reitman is not shy about setting challenges for himself. His film, Labor Day, has a pivotal scene where its three leads – Josh Brolin as a fugitive, Kate Winslet as the agoraphobic woman who shelters him, and Gattlin Griffith as her son – bake a peach pie together. During a small press conference with Brolin and Griffith (Winslet, who is pregnant, didn’t attend), Reitman admitted that in the script he described the scene as “the greatest pie-making scene in the history of cinema.”
Brolin took that seriously: During the shoot, he baked a pie every day – always peach – and conversed at length about the brownness of each crust, the juiciness of each filling. “At first it was great, ‘Oh wow, Josh baked me a pie,” Reitman says. “But after a few weeks it was like, ‘Not another pie.’”
Brolin countered, “The Teamsters appreciated it.” Eventually, he adds, he depleted the peach supply in Concord, MA, where they shot, and had assistants scouting all the nearby towns for available peaches.
Saturday, 6:15 p.m., Roy Thompson Hall: The cast, director and producers of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom tell the packed house (including students from Toronto’s Nelson Mandela Park Public School) that they were especially happy that the film was having its world premiere in this city. It was here that director Justin Chadwick, who’d come to TIFF with his film The First Grader, was first approached about directing Mandela; and it was here that Chadwick cast British actor Idris Elba (The Wire) as his lead while Elba was shooting Pacific Rim. After the screening, during the standing ovation, a spotlight picks out Elba on the balcony, wiping away tears, causing an entire row of women on the main floor to swoon.
Saturday, 9:30 p.m., Fox Searchlight party, Spice Route restaurant: The folks from the film Enough Said arrive first – writer/director Nicole Holofcener and stars Toni Colette and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, still emotional from the applause that erupted when the title card “For Jim” appeared in the closing credits. The card referred to the late James Gandolfini, whose role as Louis-Dreyfus’s love interest was one of his last.
Soon the room is wall-to-wall talent. Actor Richard E. Grant hangs out by the bar, right below a screen that’s playing the trailer for his TIFF film Dom Hemingway. Steve McQueen, the director of 12 Years a Slave, chats with his producers. Tommy Oliver, director of 1982, charms reporters. Guests feast on sushi, spiced shrimp and Kobe beef, and every now and then someone darts into a banquette-lined alcove where a giant candy buffet is set up. They grab little plastic bags, fill them with Smarties, candy sticks, and black licorice, and then dart out again, stashing the bags in their purses to enjoy later, in private.