From the Archives: a look back on TIFF’s most memorable moments

From the Archives: a look back on TIFF’s most memorable moments

Oh, Snap
This month, the Toronto International Film Festival celebrates its 35th year with a glossy new home in the Bell Lightbox. Much has changed since the inaugural year, when Hollywood studios turned up their noses at the fledging fest. Then again, much hasn’t. It’s still two weeks of celebrities and fans behaving badly. Here, a look back on TIFF’s most memorable moments, from the coke-fuelled ’70s to the paparazzi-riddled oughties.


Festival judge Robbie Robertson orders the Plaza II Hotel’s entire stash of Dom Perignon within an hour of arriving. TIFF director Wayne Clarkson shows up to investigate (the Festival was still picking up celebrity tabs then) and finds what he calls “a true rock-and-roll fornicatorium.”

The Ontario Censor Board shows some prude attitude by banning Louis Malle’s Pretty Baby, starring a pre-teen Brooke Shields as a prostitute.

Nothing if not consistent, the censor board demands that 35 seconds of sofa-shaking sex be cut from the Canadian film In Praise of Older Women. Rebel TIFF staffers smuggle the original film reel into the theatre and show the uncut version.


On the rebound from Farrah Fawcett, the Six Million Dollar Man, Lee Majors, arrives at a festival soirée with Karen Kain on his arm, telling reporters, “It’s quite a responsibility going out with Canada’s national treasure, but then I was married to America’s.”


In the days before tweens hogged the limelight, the Divine Miss M. sparks a riot at the premiere of her musical Divine Madness.


At an illegal after-hours club, Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel reportedly snort more coke than Tony Montana on a tear. De Niro then asks festival staffer Michael Copeman to stand guard at the bathroom door while he becomes better acquainted with a new female friend.

Newbie filmmakers Atom Egoyan and Bruce McDonald get two thumbs up for self-promotion: after both are rejected by the festival, they don matching tuxes and gloves to screen their shorts—Open House and Let Me See, respectively—outside the main festival theatre.


The star-stacked Big Chill opens the festival, officially ushering in the era of Holly­wood celebrity that dominates TIFF today.

An unseasoned TIFF volunteer shows up at Glenn Close’s suite and blurts out, “Oh, I thought you were a man!” Close throws a first-class don’t-you-know-who-I am diva fit.


Attempting to get close to Jack Nicholson in the VIP section of TIFF hot spot Copa, reporter Susan Ferrier MacKay holds up a sign reading “Want to dance?” Nicholson mouths back “No, thank you,” then turns to his fellow partier and says, “Pity she used the wrong verb.”


Fourteen-year-old ingenue Margaret Langrick, starring in My American Cousin, works the party circuit with cigarette and wine glass in hand.


Too big for regular theatre seats, pro wrestler turned Princess Bride star André the Giant gets an orange vinyl bench crafted to accommodate his seven-foot-four, 500-pound girth.


Festival employee Don McKellar helps Drugstore Cowboy co-stars Matt Dillon and Kelly Lynch avoid the red carpet crowds by taking them up to the Varsity theatre in a freight elevator, which breaks down, forcing the trio to make awkward chit-chat while waiting for maintenance workers.

Bruce McDonald accepts the $25,000 best Canadian film prize for Roadkill, happily announcing it would buy him “a big chunk of hash.”

Celebs and film fans fight for space at the ROM screening of Michael Moore’s Roger and Me, prompting threats from the fire marshal and the evacuation of standing fans.


Bouncers turn away Whoopi Goldberg and her co-star Sissy Spacek from their own shindig (for The Long Walk Home) because they don’t have passes.

TIFF director Helga Stephenson convinces Clint Eastwood (premiering White Hunter, Black Heart) to visit her dying mother, a huge Eastwood fan, at St. Michael’s Hospital.


Director Terry Gilliam goes missing before the premiere of his movie The Fisher King. Frantic festival staffers eventually find him at a Blue Jays game.

Atom Egoyan’s The Adjuster wins best Canadian film. He spontaneously hands the $25,000 prize over to John Pozer, who got an honourable mention for The Grocer’s Wife. (Wim Wenders had done the same thing for Egoyan with a $5,000 prize at the Montreal film festival). “Arsinée was pissed,” Egoyan later said of his knee-jerk largesse. “We were broke.”


Quentin Tarantino premieres Reservoir Dogs, his career-making feature debut. Like a film school nerd on amphetamines, the twitchy director forgoes sleep in favour of midnight screenings and all-night parties with his cast: Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth and Michael Madsen.


Kim Campbell is moved to tears by David Cronenberg’s M. Butter­fly. That, or she senses her days as PM are numbered. (She’s ousted from power less than a month later.)


After a minor administrative foible at the Sutton Place front desk, pre-sober Robert Downey Jr. turns into a raging Mike Tyson–toddler hybrid, punching the walls and crawling around on his hands and knees.


Demi Moore arrives in Toronto with an entourage that includes a personal hairstylist, even though she’s still sporting her GI Jane buzz.


A die-hard Vince Vaughn fan gets busted for producing counterfeit passes to Vaughn’s Clay Pigeons party at Montana Bar and Grill.

After partying till 4 a.m., Ben Stiller blows off several interviews, claiming to have “a stomach thing.” Stiller later apologizes to the Star’s movie critic Peter Howell, saying he was on “a self-destructive tear.”

En route to dinner at Bistro 990, Michael Caine almost gets into Mike Harris’s limo, mistaking it for his own. Upon hearing the ride belongs to a Canadian politician, the Oscar winner quips, “I don’t want to get into that!”


Robin Williams imitates Jean Chrétien’s facial paral­ysis at the press conference for Jakob the Liar.

Nick Nolte addresses his homeless-chic fashion sense while promoting Simpatico, remarking, “People magazine gave me sexiest man and worst-dressed guy. I’ve been working on that for 20 years.”


At a press conference for Dr. T and the Women, director Robert Altman calls David Letterman an asshole in defence of his leading lady, Farrah Fawcett, who had given a bizarre, possibly pie-eyed interview on the Late Show.


Festival screenings and flights screech to a halt as planes take down New York’s Twin Towers. Stranded stars are glued to the news.

American golden boy Matthew McConaughey leaps from his seat at the Thirteen Conversations About One Thing premiere to tend to Janice Flisfeder, a woman in the audience who had suddenly collapsed. “I felt a man stroking my hair, telling me, ‘It’s OK, sweetheart,’ ” she later told the press.


Arriving at a party at the ROM, Nicolas Cage gets a warm welcome from a woman fondling her considerable bosoms for his benefit.

Give that girl a sandwich! Nicole Kidman’s skeletal frame is the talk of the town following the premiere of The Human Stain, where she looked in desperate need of nourishment.


During a tedious press conference for A History of Violence, Ed Harris tests the boundaries between art and Ike Turner insanity when he pounds his fist on the table and hurls his water glass at the wall.


Sean Penn lights up during a press conference for All the King’s Men at the Sutton Place. The professional shit disturber goes unpunished, but the hotel faces a $600 fine for violating no-smoking laws.

Setting the tone for his totally offensive–slash–totally hilarious film debut, Sacha Baron Cohen shows up at the midnight premiere of Borat in a cart pulled by a herd of burly faux-peasant women.


Brangelina’s limo retreats from York­ville after fans accost it like a pack of rabid monkeys attacking a banana truck. One woman even holds her baby up to bathe in the gaze of the holy couple.

Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush sheds his highbrow-thespy image by becoming a dance floor fixture at the Park Hyatt roof lounge.

Just when we thought Colin Farrell couldn’t get any dreamier, he takes a homeless man on a $2,100 shopping spree and gives him money for first and last month’s rent.


Kate Bosworth brings some excitement to a press conference for The Girl in the Park when the clasps of her black silk dress come undone. Co-star Sigourney Weaver tries (and fails) to do it back up. Bosworth shuffles off, holding her dress on.

During the screening of Slumdog Millionaire, New York Post critic Lou Lumenick gets annoyed with Roger Ebert (in the row behind him) and whacks him with a binder. Ebert, who is mute due to jaw surgery, was tapping Lumenick’s shoulder in an effort to get him to move his head.

After a long day of press for his movie Blindness, Danny Glover reportedly arrives at the InterContinental Hotel wearing a wetsuit underneath his street clothes, then strips off his outer layer and takes a dip in the hotel pool.


The normally trash-talking Megan Fox is subdued during the festival after three members of the Transformers crew publish a nasty letter calling her “dumb as a rock.”

Drew Barrymore ditches the official after party for her film Whip It at Tattoo Rock Parlour and hightails it to hipster grunge hole Sweaty Betty’s.

After Jennifer Connelly makes a quick exit from the opening night gala for her movie Creation, Astral Media exec John Riley dramatically rips a picture of the actress in half, announcing to the crowd, “This is my former favourite actress.” The next day, a teary Connelly explains that she left early because it was the first anniversary of her father’s death.

In a silver screen–worthy standoff, Naomi Klein kicks off a campaign protesting TIFF’s spotlight on films from Tel Aviv, which, according to Klein and her Hollywood cohorts (including Jane Fonda and Viggo Mortensen), makes the festival appear anti-Palestine. Such Israel-sympathetic stars as Natalie Portman and Jerry Seinfeld disagree.

(Images: Robertson by Bob Olsen/Getstock; Majors from Sun Media; Pretty Baby from Paramount Pictures; De Niro by George Pimentel; The Big Chill from Columbia/The Kobal Collection; Close by J.P. Moczulski/Getty; André The Giant from Twentieth Century Fox/Photofest; Mcdonald by Reg Innell/Getstock; Moore from Liberation Entertainment/Everett Collection/Cp; Goldberg by Kpa Honorar And Belege/Getstock; Eastwood by Erin Combs/Getstock; Egoyan by N. Stoynoff/Getstock; Tarantino by Ron Galella/Wireimage; Campbell by Fred Chartrand/Cp; Moore by Richard Lautens/Getstock; Downey by Bernard Weil/Getstock; Williams And Nolte by Steve Russell/Getstock; Stiller by Sven Hoogerhuis/Getstock; Conference Room by Peter Power/Getstock; Kidman by John White/Keystone Press; Jolie And Pitt by Dara Kushner/Keystone Press; Penn by George Pimentel; Rush by Joe Scarnici/Wireimage; Cohen by Evan Agostini/Getty Images; Fox by Darren Calabrese/Cp; Glover by Lucas Oleniuk/Getstock; Barrymore by Jen Mcneely; Connelly by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images; Protest by Rene Johnston/Getstock)