It was a flaccid start to a much-hyped festival.
Bono showed up (briefly) to promote the opening film about his band, From The Sky Down. But star power began to surge in earnest on Friday with the arrival of Brangelina, who attended a top-secret private dinner (cooked by celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, served on the rooftop at The Burroughs Building) for Moneyball co-stars Jonah Hill, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Anna Ferris, as well as musician Chris Cornell, who contributed to the film's soundtrack.
Then came the signal that the stars in town had not only arrived but were game to have a little fun: the pock-pock sound of Jessica Biel's paddle around 1 a.m. at the Grey Goose Soho lounge. The Total Recall star (shooting in Toronto with Colin Farrell when she's not spotted cycling around town with Justin Timberlake) started up a game of ping-pong on the venue's top floor. She showed fine form (and formidable forearms) playing "Chinese Style" – far back from the table like the pros – with an impressive peppering of backhand slams.
Meanwhile, our favourite True Blood vampire Alexander Skarsgard, was boozing up on free cocktails – but polite enough to tip $2 for every drink. We like that in a bloodsucker. We also liked his style as he walked a "black carpet" the next day with Melancholia co-star Kirsten Dunst at Hugo Boss's flagship store on Bloor St. (No, their outspoken director Lars Von Trier was not in attendance – for fear of flying, or perhaps more bad press following his outburst about Hitler at Cannes earlier this year.) The man of the weekend, though, as we all know by now, was George Clooney – who once again proved not only his charm but his stamina.
After endless junketeering for Ides of March (which he directed) and The Descendants (already earning him Oscar buzz for his star turn), Mr. Clooney still looked like he was having a ball doing the rounds at The Thompson Hotel on Saturday night. Hosted by Vanity Fair, this is an annual hot ticket at the festival. And although the magazine's editor Graydon Carter did not personally meet and greet the guests Mr. Clooney picked up the slack, enjoying cocktails (served neat, as usual) with his Descendants cast mates – scene-stealing newbie Nick Krause and on-screen daughter Shailene Woodley – and striking poses with Bono for a classic-tailoring-meets-weathered-leather photo op.
From there, Mr. Clooney moved on to a full five hours of cocktails and oyster-slurping at the party for David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method. Perhaps since hooking up with former WWE wrestler Stacy Keibler Hollywood's leading man has been eating his Wheaties? Ms. Keibler – the event's towering glamazon at 6-foot-3 in heels – certainly seems like she has. She was giving old friends bear hugs that turn into headlocks, and she's a nifty point guard thanks to her height, creating a protective force field around her sweetheart. Mr. Clooney shows sweet affection for her, too. When not in power talks with party guests Jimmy Kimmel or Jon Hamm, he was cupping her hand or reaching for her through the swelling crowd.
It was a crowd packed with more celebrities-per-square-inch than possibly any other bash in town. Bono, again. Rocker Dave Matthews. Viggo Mortensen, who plays Freud in A Dangerous Method. There were so many A-listers on show, in fact, that no one was even gossiping about why Michael Fassbender wasn't at his own cast party. Turns out he was called back to Venice to pick up an award for his other TIFF film, Shame, and made it to Toronto on Sunday instead.
His co-star Keira Knightley also proved a great distraction from Mr. Fassbender's no-show, cuddling on a couch with her boyfriend, Klaxons rocker James Righton. She plays a meltdown-a-minute patient in Mr. Cronenberg's film, biting into the role with convincing savagery, especially for one so delicately built (Chanel doesn't hire just anyone). The couple clearly enjoyed the house party vibe, trading quick, then increasingly drawn out, kisses, leading to the first evidence of imported-bodyguard-syndrome since Toronto allowed celebrities to bring their own heat: Ms. Knightley's hired goon chased off a geriatric woman who complimented the actress on her stunning dark sheath dress – so rude it came off as comedic.
The Dangerous Method party officially winded down, but that didn't mean the party did. Like a drunken Cirque-du-Soleil show, celebs jumped between two floors at Grey Goose Soho House – one for hardcore drinking and another with ping pong tables (for blowing off steam a la Biel). And by the time Mr. Clooney's flotilla migrated from the first to the second floor, the night was exploding with spontaneous groupings of Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Jason Reitman and Jonah Hill.
Hunky Ryan Gosling. Alexander Skarsgård, back at it. Hugh Dancy. Anna Farris. Kate Mara. There were just too many pretty bon bons to keep track of, but a few favourite configurations included auteur director Steve McQueen surrounded by talent agents after the screening of his film Shame and seeing Alexander Skarsgård showing private pics on his phone to Arcade Fire's Win Butler and Régine Chassagne (who played an intimate set earlier in the day with Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder to raise money for Paul Haggis's charity Artists for Peace and Justice).
Celebs were out in force at other venues as well. Emily Blunt turned up in a seductive black backless number to the cast chow down for the cast of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen at Brassaii. Her co-stars Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer were also there, along with a steady stream of women moving in their direction. And over at the Bowery, British eye candy Matthew Goode camped out to support his film Burning Man. He plays a sex-addicted cad grieving the loss of his wife – and within the first 10 minutes gives audiences an eyeful of his bare bottom before engaging in multiple sex scenes. "So much sex even I lost track," he said while sneaking a smoke on the sidewalk. "I got humping headaches."
Glenn Close, on the other hand, has to hide her sex in her TIFF film Albert Nobbs. She was at Grey Goose Soho (yes, it's the big venue this year) in a chic black pantsuit on Sunday night for a light nosh before the screening of her new film – an appropriate fashion choice given that her character must don a top hat in order work at a posh Dublin hotel.
While the Nobbs cast ate upstairs, the cast of The Deep Blue Sea rolled in for their pre-screening dins on the ground floor. The film's star Rachel Weisz (who recently married Daniel Craig) worked some sexy big hair and a stunning, strapless, floor-length chiffon gown. Seated nearby, Toronto director Atom Egoyan tried hard not to gawk over his trademark specs while picking at his starter salad.
Still, the city is resuming some form of normal. The stars out on Sunday night were taking their sweet, civilized time between bites of savoury mushroom risotto – a far cry from the madness of King George's reign last night.