The Toronto International Film Festival's social scene is the kickoff to the Oscar derby. It's reserved for bona-fide insiders to strut their stuff, and make distribution deals.
Still, if the fest has got the cred that counts in Hollywood, it doesn't mean Toronto the Good doesn't get a bit debauched during the festival.
To walk the walk, here's a few places to spot the boldface names in town.
THE BURROUGHES BUILDING
Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency is the top dog in Hollywood, making their party at TIFF a major score. There's simply no better "get" for eager actors than an invite to CAA's party hosted by Amy Sacco on opening weekend. Once the queen of New York nightlife, Sacco now takes her Bungalow 8 brand on the road. In Toronto, her party will be at the Burroughes Building and, with CAA along for the ride, we've got high expectations. At TIFF, talent is always trying to trade up at the CAA affair, where past bashes have seen a young Dakota Fanning nearly toppling a centrepiece to get closer to Oscar winning producer Jeff Skoll (who once lived across from Toronto's York Mills Collegiate and ran a little shop called eBay). Last year, Hilary Swank pounced over two ottomans to greet agency powerhouse Roeg Sutherland.
SOHO HOUSE GREY GOOSE
The satellite venue of Soho House London – on Duncan Street – will host 10 A-list TIFF parties over four nights. From lithe-limbed Keira Knightley to six-pack-and-a-half Channing Tatum, five bright stars are scheduled to appear here every night. The biggest? Let's just say we're holding out for at least someone Madonna-level (or Madonna herself). Capacity at Soho House is capped at a civilized 250 people each night so crashing is futile (unless you've somehow snagged Andrea Riseborough as your festival girlfriend). But there is a game afoot to close the entire street so watch this space.
Haute hotelier Michael Achenbaum parties with Ben Affleck, Rihanna and Kim Kardashian on an average night at one of his many hotel lounges – in New York, Turks and Caicos and Miami Beach. In Toronto, he hopes to draw the Moneyball (Brad Pitt) and amfAR (Leighton Meester) crowd in his first foray at TIFF. For two nights, our city will get a serious Gansevoort injection in the flabby folds of the club district. If we show Achenbaum a good time, could our own Gansevoort be far behind our new Thompson outpost? He's teamed with Matt George of Goodnight, the hottest speakeasy-style bar downtown. Robert Pattinson and Caitlin Cronenberg recently left more DNA traces at Goodnight than any other Toronto venue – they're just friends, I think she said – which obviously pumps the club's manic buzz factor that should build during TIFF. Just keep in mind: Goodnight is the size of a suburban living room.
LA TERRASSE AMC & NIKKI BEACH
Global lifestyle and club brand Nikki Beach is a favourite with free-champagne-guzzling celebs at Cannes. And this year at TIFF they're partnering with the network AMC and taking over some pretty prime-time real estate: the outdoor terrace of the TIFF Lightbox. With AMC hosting some more intimate gatherings, Mad Men's Jon Hamm may put in face time here while in town rallying for his wife Jennifer Westfeldt's film Friends With Kids (in which he also plays a supporting role). She rather patiently supported him on his maiden foray into the festival fray for last year's The Town. Stalkers, you might want to pick up some suction cups at Canadian Tire and give parkour a try.
THE THOMPSON TORONTO
Magnums of Moët aren't the only things that draw celebrities. We're seeing a real trend toward celeb migration to the feel-good sector as well – Hick star Juliette Lewis hits Organic Avenue in New York, and Daniel Craig escaped to Bali's Como Shambala Estate. That said, importing Toronto's 889 Yoga and Wellness Spa may be Thompson Hotel's smartest move yet in cultivating authentic local experiences for high-profile guests. I've done downward dogs next to Rachel Weisz and Woody Harrelson at 889's Rosedale location and wouldn't be surprised if they sneak in a morning sun salutation at 889's new studio at the Thompson.
Nightlife czar Charles Khabouth – the impresario behind Toronto's Koolhaus, Ultra and Ame – says he was wary when approached by two major players requesting that he close his new darling La Société for cast parties during TIFF. In the heart of Yorkville, the place is red hot and he'd like it to reign as the "people's" canteen. By people, of course, he means Torontonians with celebrity friends. "This festival is really only four days long this year," he muses, referring to the ridiculously front-loaded lineup of stars at TIFF, "I won't close for half the festival."
When Kenny Hotz (of Kenny vs. Spenny) and British expat Richard Lambert open up a pub called The Hoxton, TIFF's tribe of overweight yet still somehow undernourished Santa Monica-based publicists are going to fall in love at first sight. Might have something to do with Lambert, the once-upon-a-time Alfie of Queen Street aging so very well. Also, if anyone can get Ryan Gosling, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Fassbender in one place – Queen and Bathurst – it's hawkish hustler Lambert. He's got a few interesting contacts and dumps his girlfriend to marry his BlackBerry every September.
Must be that prized jamon hanging on meat hooks that makes headliners feel safe here. Last year had Graydon Carter, Megan Fox, Bill Murray, Jon Hamm, Kelly Lynch and John Legend packed into a back room the size of postage stamp. We also know Roots founder Michael Budman loves smoked meat and is known to travel in groups including Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones (Matt Damon also used to model for Budman back in the day). If anyone can pull off a last-minute Matt-Brad-George reunion, it's Budman. Watch closely at Buca on King Street West.
MORTON'S AT THE PARK HYATT
Those $58 Porterhouse steaks will keep Warner Bros. coming back: The Yankee steakhouse was a great fit for the cast dinner for the redneck chronicles of Jesse James back in 2007. The film starred Brad Pitt, which meant that Angelina was also on hand to amplify the wattage when the couple showed up. I was sidelined into a fern, crosschecked into a gob-smacked waiter, and then full-on shoved into Casey Affleck. Studios love Morton's for it's Fort Knox-tight layout – Brad and Ange came in the front, had seven or so bites of steak, then made a clean break through one of landlord Park Hyatt's multiple exits. When speculating on venues for a private dinner for Clooney and Gosling for their film Ides of March, this spot is definitely on my radar.
JASON REITMAN'S LIVING ROOM
We owe the fest's bright new downtown home to the Reitmans, so they're the clearly first family of TIFF. An invitation to their digs in the residential tower where the Lightbox is located is by far the biggest get. Though Jason's latest film, Young Adults, is not showing at TIFF, word is that Charlize Theron and Diablo Cody may be doing some Oscar groundwork during the festival.
Special to The Globe and Mail