TIFF 2014: Our favourite memories from last year

Sandra Bullock at TIFF for the premiere of Gravity. Veronica Henri/QMI Agency

Sandra Bullock at TIFF for the premiere of Gravity. Veronica Henri/QMI Agency

Jim Slotek, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:45 PM ET

The Toronto International Film Festival is a whirlwind 10 days for the reporters who cover it each and every year. Here are some of our memories from TIFF 2013.

Steve Tilley's TIFF memories...

Bad breath, a bad opening line and a chilly reception. My “date” with Scarlett Johansson was going exactly as well as most of them do.

At least year’s TIFF, I found myself sitting next to ScarJo during a roundtable interview for Don Jon, the romantic dramedy she starred in with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I normally avoid the chair next to the talent during these sorts of affairs, but I’d arrived late to the table and it was the only seat open. As luck would have it, I’d just wolfed down a spicy buffalo chicken sandwich for lunch, and was probably somewhat aromatic.

Johansson didn’t seem offended by my breath, but she wasn’t pleased when I asked about her engagement ring, which she’d only recently begun wearing in public after her betrothal to French journalist Romain Dauriac.

For the rest of the interview she kept her left hand below the table – even sitting on it from time to time – and deflected questions about her engagement with a mixture of resignation and curiosity. “The thing is like, why do you care? You don’t know me,” she said, making a valid point that further deepened my shame. “I don’t particularly care to know (a stranger’s) romantic life.”

Lessons learned: avoid buffalo chicken sandwiches at lunch, avoid the chair next to the talent, and don’t poke your nose in Scarlett Johansson’s business.

Jim Slotek's TIFF memories...

When TIFF stars are in more than one movie, you sometimes end up interviewing them more than once. I wouldn’t call it the start of a relationship, but they start remembering you.

So it was last year with Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate (which died a quick death) and August: Osage County, and with Daniel Radcliffe, who was in three movies – Kill Your Darlings, Horns and The F Word. I interviewed both twice.

Cumberbatch is a smart, open and engaged interview, the kind who keeps you on your toes by disagreeing with the premise of a question for pure sport.

The part of our interview that went sort of viral: His disapproval of his female fans’ use of the word “Cumberbitches” – “It’s kind of like feminism never happened,” he said. He offered up “The Cumberbatch Collective” as a PC replacement. I believe it has yet to catch on.

Radcliffe doesn’t need coffee, but he drinks a lot of it. And it’s easy to forget he’s only 25 (24 as we spoke) – especially when he talks about the parallels between the Beats and punk by referencing in detail a seminal Sex Pistols concert in Manchester in 1976. (13 years before he was born).

Had to chuckle when he described James McAvoy, his co-star in the upcoming Frankenstein, as “someone I’ve been a fan of all my life.” McAvoy is 35.

Bruce Kirkland's TIFF memories...

Every year, my favourite Toronto filmfest memories are singular moments of revelation and exhilaration with a film, a filmmaker, a performer or all of the above. Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity was one of those all-in experiences at the 2013 festival, from the original 3D press screening that Warner Bros. staged, to the interactions with Cuaron and star Sandra Bullock at the press conference.

The movie itself astounded. Bullock impressed with her self-mocking humour when I asked how she felt about not being the first choice for the role of the rookie astronaut paired with George Clooney (even though she turned out to be the best choice).

“I wasn’t?” Bullock exclaimed, turning to Cuaron. “Yes, discuss why I wasn’t the first choice. I’d like to hear this!” But, of course, she knew Angelina Jolie was courted and other actresses, too. Bullock showed her class, as always: “I don’t think I’ve done a film, unless I produced it and had it written from scratch,” she said, “that didn’t have all kinds of amazing handprints on it along the way.”

Liz Braun's TIFF memories...

At TIFF 2013, I had the good fortune to interview Ned Benson, the writer/director of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, and Jessica Chastain, who stars in the film opposite James McAvoy.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is the story of the breakup of a relationship, told first from the man's point of view, and then from the woman's perspective.

Each side of the story is a feature-length film. That makes the total viewing time three hours. I wish it were six hours. It's an amazing movie. (Viola Davis, Ciaran Hinds, Bill Hader, Jess Weixler, William Hurt and Isabelle Huppert are also in the cast.)

Turns out The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby was a 10-year labour of love for all concerned. Ned Benson, Jess Weixler and Jessica Chastain have been friends for a long time and it took a lot of work to get the movie made. It was a great experience to interview them all on the very day it became obvious that the movie was going to be a big success. They were so happy.

A shorter version of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby played at Cannes this year and got a 10 minute standing ovation. The film opens in theatres here in September.

Mark Daniell's TIFF memories...

It’s always tough to ask an actor about a high-profile project that failed.

But I found myself having to do just that when I spoke with Taylor Kitsch. The ex Friday Night Lights star was tubthumping The Grand Seduction – quirky Newfoundland-set comedy – when the conversation turned to John Carter.

The big-budgeted Disney film was a colossal failure when it opened in theatres in March 2012. Kitsch followed that bomb with Battleship and Oliver Stone’s Savages. And instead of shying away from the missteps, Kistch recalled Carter without a trace of embarrassment.

“The only s--- part of how it ended was I couldn’t go do the sequel. I had a hard outline for the second one and it was f---ing great,” he told me. “It’s one of those things that happen and there’s nothing you can really do about it.”

Kitsch then went on to rave about two projects he had upcoming – the Emmy-winning Normal Heart and Lone Survivor – and the pride he felt starring in his first Canadian movie.

It was proof you can knock him down, but he’ll get back up.


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