Patrick Swayze passes away during TIFF and the awkwardness of getting celebrity death reactions

Patrick Swayze passes away during TIFF and the awkwardness of getting celebrity death reactions

Patrick Swayze (1952-2009) (Photo by Alan Light)

Every time a famous person passes away, news organizations call up a bunch of celebrities to get reactions, usually consisting phrases such as “I was shocked when I found out” and “Our thoughts and prayers go out to [famous person’s name]’s family.” What reporters didn’t count on yesterday was that some celebrities at TIFF, caught up in the hubbub of the festival, didn’t know about Patrick Swayze’s death until they were asked about it at press conferences.

Poor Drew Barrymore looked like someone knocked the wind out of her during the early afternoon press conference for Whip It when a reporter asked her directly about Swayze’s passing. With her eyes lit up and her mouth open, she turned to Whip It star Eve and asked if he really died. “Yeah, I saw it on TV,” she nodded, adding that her thoughts are with the people around him.

After another prodding from a reporter, specifically about Drew working with Swayze in Donnie Darko, Barrymore said:

I feel as though I’m the wrong person to answer that because it’s such a personal thing for the people who are close to him. I met him when I was seven years old. He was the nicest man that one could ever, ever, ever know. He was a hero to us all from The Outsiders to all the wonderful films he made. He was a pleasure to work with in Donnie Darko. I’m actually finding out about this news right now in this conference, so I’m in a shell shocked state about it myself, but I think Eve said it best, which is our blessings are with the people around him who knew and loved him the best.

An hour earlier, when Nicolas Cage and director Werner Herzog were in the room promoting Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, they were also asked to provide a celebrity death quote and, like Barrymore, Herzog turned to Cage and asked if he really died. Cage, after a brief pause, said, “I don’t think this is the forum for that to be perfectly honest, out of respect for his family.”

Later on in the day, the moderator got the question out of the way at the start of The Private Lives of Pippa Lee press conference with Keanu Reeves.

“I had the opportunity to work with him and he was a beautiful person and my sympathies and condolences go out to his friends and family,” said Reeves, who later recounted filming Point Break with the adventure-loving Ghost star. “He wanted to experience life and take the opportunity of the film and jump out of an airplane and he did it with an open heart. He was very generous and to anybody around him he just lit up the room.”