The creep of fall, the clatter of celebrities. The Toronto International Film Festival might be many things – a giant fame aquarium, an opera of self-adoration, the Oscar-sniffing equivalent of white truffle hunting in Alba – but it is, invariably, a tableau that runs on parties.
Preparties. Postparties. Goldilocks parties. Here they all come, complete with code-red celebs, critics bearing pitchforks, hangers-on bearing hashtags – TIFF means never having to say you're sorry. But what might look like a party and sound like a party doesn't always mean it's just a party: Often, these shindigs are nothing but carefully choreographed social-delivery systems meant for either career enhancement or celebrity piggybacking. With careers at stake, and billions of dollars, too, in the context of the wider movie biz, there is much jockeying. Everybody is at work here. Everybody is someone's instrument. Everyone is secretly thinking the word "leverage."
On tap, boldface-wise? A whole hullabaloo, including the Olsen sister who isn't a twin (hi, Elizabeth!), two Sutherlands for the price of one (greetings, Kiefer and Donald), a Cate for a Kate (both of whom have Oscars), Ben Affleck's BFF and Miss Congeniality herself. You say Fanning, and I say Fonda. Old Hollywood is calling with the arrival of Kim Novak. And to think (shivers): Both Keith Richards and Johnny Depp are expected this year.
As usual, the party periodic table breaks down into a few different parts: There are parties hosted by studios and distributors, there are parties hosted by media organizations looking to be in the mix, there are parties hosted by brands banking on the halo effect of celebrityville and there are charitable events using TIFF as a platform.
One attracting a deluge of buzz? Certainly the party that Vanity Fair is throwing its weight behind for Freeheld. That's the sapphic weeper starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page – awards-season bait of the nth degree. Hugo Boss is presenting the party, and it's being hosted by the magazine's influential West Coast editor Krista Smith. As far as envoys of the celebrity industrial-complex go, Smith is all-powerful: She not only plays a critical role in producing Vanity Fair's annual Hollywood issue cover and portfolio, but she is also an all-around celebrity-whisperer for the title.
Having accrued some buzz, too? That would be the inaugural AMBI Gala, in aide of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, happening at the Four Seasons. Diana Ross is booked to appear, like a rare comet, at the black-tie bonanza. It's an event that happens on the eve of TIFF, where across the city, on the same night, a queen of another sort – Queen Amidala, i.e. Natalie Portman – is centre stage at an official TIFF fundraiser.
Hudson's Bay is back, hosting a fête this year for Trumbo, the biopic headlined by Bryan Cranston – one of the heavies of the fest, appearing as he is on the cover of the just-out TIFF-centric issue of The Hollywood Reporter. (The pressure is on, considering that the Canadian retailer's last TIFF party, in 2014, featured an actual conga line with Bill Murray and Kristen Wiig.) Burberry and Chanel are in the game. So is Max Mara, with its sponsorship this year of the glittery cross-pollination that is the Instyle/Hollywood Foreign Press Association party, held annually at the Windsor Arms. (Look for the likes of Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain at this one.)
Wheeling into action is Audi Canada, which continues its tradition of hosting a slew of events fêting various films and talent, including that one world premiere starring Sandra Bullock. See also: Rémy Cointreau, which is pouring on a few, too – i.e., the party they're hosting for The Dressmaker, starring a certain Kate Winslet. Grey Goose is, as always, everywhere, including a haute bash they're hosting for the opening night film Demolition, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, and their usual colonization of a certain private members' club on Adelaide.
Speaking of which: As far as TIFF nerve centres go, Soho House carries on. This having been the spot where I've seen Benedict Cumberbatch in a dance-off with Michael Fassbender during a previous TIFF – and where Taylor Swift cozied up to Julia Roberts in the storied photo booth on its third floor during another – we would expect nothing less. Expect several fêtes for several films, and faces à la Drew Barrymore, Nicholas Hoult and Mark Ruffalo.
Not last, not least: Canadian distributor Mongrel Media is pulling things up a notch by taking over the historic Campbell House on Queen, where they plan to host their slate of films (all 20 of them!) with thespians running the gamut from Tom Hiddleston to Rachel Weisz. Look up, way up: Bungalow 8 is doing some colonizing of its own when it, once again, takes over the rooftop lounge at Thompson Toronto. The New York club pop-up, hosted by Amy Sacco, usually sees steady late-night revelry, and is where we've even spotted Brad Pitt during the fest.
Charles Khabouth's places around town will, as usual, see plenty of wattage during this time of year. Check: Ryan Reynolds and Greta Gerwig at Byblos. Check, check: Helen Mirren (it looks like twice) at Patria. Some other restaurants that I have my eye on as the unspooling and the uncorking begins: Buca, Momofuku, Montecito, the Chase, Café Boulud (all-new), Bar Raval, DaiLo, Opus, Colette and Nota Bene. Never underestimate the lure of off-the-grid, like when Will Ferrell showed up last year at Campagnolo, the local fave on Dundas West.
So, what else? Holt Renfrew is, once again, housing the Variety Studio – a primo opportunity to spot celebs in daylight, ducking in and out of the Bloor Street flagship. (In previous years, it's been a magnet for people named Viggo, Scarlett and Jude). Likewise, the newly launched Addisons Residence – designed to kind of look like Robert Evans's playpen in Beverly Hills – will be the official interview lounge for the L.A. Times. Boldface guaranteed. The Welllington Street boîte will also host several industry functions during the first weekend of TIFF.
Want more? Sure, I can give you a little more. It's all-hail-Jeremy-Irons at a sit-down event being hosted by one of the most famous names in journalism one night. New York hotelier Michael Achenbaum is zipping in to throw a Gansevoort-hosted bash for the British film High-Rise. It's even more Brits at the "London House," going up in the Templar Hotel.
Unifrance is offering up a soupçon of fabulousness when it fêtes the French films at the Festival at their annual do. Adelaide East is where eOne, yet another distributor, is heading to celebrate their starry slate, Emily Blunt included. Entertainment Weekly magazine has their annual "Must" party, which last year brought out Steve Carell and Tina Fey. Roots poobah Michael Budman is throwing a casual-chic affair at his house, and you never know who might show up. And it's a party in a castle, yet again, for the annual gala for Paul Haggis's Artists for Peace and Justice event. Jane Fonda and Susan Sarandon are expected at the Casa Loma glitz-fest, as is Moby. Faster than you can say Yo-Yo Ma – he's coming to TIFF, too, don't you know – the crimson carpets will be laid.
Until then, there is little to be done, alas, except take our B12 shots, and brush up on our Sun Tzu.