Between high-profile engagements, dramatic breakups, alleged cult rescues, fairy-tale cheaters and a naked prince, we are coming off one of the most gossip-heavy summers in recent memory.
As the 37th Toronto International Film Festival opens, the potential for more great gossip is promising, especially from my reporting vantage point: the TIFF party circuit.
Herewith, my Top 5 Stories to Watch at TIFF:
1. Who is Post-Cheat Kristen Stewart?
When she arrives at the Ryerson Theatre Thursday night to present On the Road, it will be exactly six weeks since Kristen Stewart's cheating scandal devastated the Twilight faithful. TIFF marks Stewart's first official public appearance after photos emerged of the young actress kissing her married director from Snow White and the Huntsman while huddled, high-school style, in her Mini Cooper parked on the side of the road. There followed a simpering apology in which she repeatedly professed her love for cuckolded boyfriend (and Twilight co-star) Robert Pattinson; up to that point, she'd refused to even admit they were dating. Pre-cheat Stewart was widely known to be a reluctant celebrity who regularly gave the finger to paparazzi and scrambled away, behaving as though she'd rather dive into a dumpster than have her picture taken. At promotional appearances and award shows, Stewart could often be relied upon to fidget nervously and bite her lip, take her fancy shoes off in favour of a beat-up old pair of Chuck Taylors, fronting as if her "realness" could not be contained by the artifice of Hollywood glamour. Understandably this attitude was condoned when she was at the top, still perfect and unsullied by scandal. Since the scandal, she's been called a "trampire" by the New York Post and widely slut-shamed across the Internet. Stewart's involvement in several upcoming projects is now uncertain as the industry waits to see how she'll weather the controversy. TIFF then is her first opportunity to reclaim her position as one of the top talents of her generation and our first opportunity to meet the post-cheat Kristen Stewart. Will she own it?
2. Ben Affleck's Oscar campaign
He was one half of the celebrity couple to inspire the first celebrity-couple portmanteau – in 2002, a slick-haired "Blue Steel"-ing Ben Affleck was rubbing Jenny from the Block's derrière ass on a yacht in a music video as "Bennifer" became a national obsession. Two months before they were supposed to marry, an allegedly tactile Affleck was caught in a Vancouver peeler bar and the wedding was postponed, and cancelled outright shortly after. By his own admission, the relationship nearly destroyed his career. Ten years later, Affleck returns to TIFF a conquering hero and already a contender for a nomination for a best-director Oscar. He's not as tanned and pouty, there's much less product in his hair, he's a faithful husband to Jennifer Garner and father to their three children, and his film Argo (the true-life story of how the CIA and Canadian authorities collaborated with Hollywood producers to rescue the six American hostages from Iran in 1979) just played to mega-praise at the Telluride Film Festival, with experts and critics predicting that Affleck's third directorial effort will be a multiple Oscar nominee. TIFF is widely acknowledged as the official start of the annual Oscar campaign and it's where previous winners American Beauty, Slumdog Millionaire and The King's Speech began their ultimately triumphant journeys. Hollywood can't resist a comeback story like Affleck's; right now, he's the industry golden boy.
3. Getting stupid over Ryan Gosling
Ryan Gosling is hot. So hot he makes people – mostly women – really stupid. Last Easter in New York, several hundred people participated in a Ryan Gosling Easter Egg Hunt. There's a Ryan Gosling colouring book available for purchase, there's a Ryan Gosling "husband pillow," there's a website comparing Ryan Gosling to puppies, asking visitors to weigh in on which is cuter. Women think about Ryan Gosling so much that he is sighted around the world simultaneously all the time and they lose their minds. So imagine the horny hysteria that will ensue when everyone's favourite fantasy snuggle toy comes home to Canada, especially now that they know exactly where he'll be on Friday night at 6 o'clock (the Princess of Wales Theatre on King Street West in Toronto)?
4. Toronto GOOP
Gwyneth Paltrow knows where to find this, where to buy that, why you should eat there, what to serve and how best to cook it. This was why she launched GOOP, her lifestyle website – so she could share her knowledge and experiences with the uninitiated. One of the more popular GOOP features is the GOOP city guide. Paltrow will return from a visit to San Francisco or Nashville or Barcelona or Hong Kong and make recommendations for restaurants, boutiques and hotels. She is expected at TIFF to promote Thanks for Sharing, a comedy about sex addiction. So will Toronto get GOOPed? More interestingly, how will Toronto react to getting GOOPed? Gwyneth might know, but Torontonians know more. It's a city full of know-it-alls and foodies and the ultimate know-it-all foodie is coming to tell them what they've been missing in their own town.
5. Winona Forever (again)
As far as iconic couples are concerned, before Brangelina and Will and Kate, even before Britney and Justin, there was ...Wijohnny? Jinona? (What would we have called them?) At the end of the eighties and before grunge, an entire generation lived on their love. It's been 20 years since Winona Ryder and Johnny Depp were together, 20 years since he removed the "n" and the "a" leaving "Wino Forever" tattooed on his bicep as the final memory of their relationship. And they'll both be at TIFF (he for West of Memphis, the documentary about three teenagers possibly wrongly imprisoned for 18 years for murdering three Boy Scouts, and she for The Iceman, in which she plays the wife of Richard Kuklinski, the infamous Mafia hitman). And for the first time in a long time, they're single at the same time. Okay, so maybe this isn't so much an item for the Gossip Watch List as it is for the Gossip Wish List. Some of us are wishing on this really hard.
Lainey Lui is a reporter for CTV's etalk (weekdays, 7 p.m. ET) and gossip blogger for LaineyGossip.com.