Every year in September, low-key Toronto (now the fourth largest city in North America) becomes the centre of attention in the world with A-list celebrities and international media swarming the city for 10 days at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, TIFF is in its full glory at the moment. Next to the Cannes Film Festival, TIFF is the most influential film festival in the world. In fact, we can probably argue that the Festival is even more important than Cannes because the largest number of deals on movie distribution rights is usually sealed at our festival. Movies premiering here are also hot favourites for the Oscars: past examples were 12 Years A Slave, The King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire and Argo, to name a few.
Having worked with all kinds of celebrities during my entire career, I usually try to avoid them because they are often ‘high-maintenance’ individuals. But even I could not resist the opportunity to walk the red carpet last weekend to see the premier of Tom Hardy’s Legend. I respect Hardy (Locke, The Drop, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) as an actor and the Red Carpet Room VIP pass was too tempting to turn down. So, in spite of the pouring rain that evening, I was partying in my Diane von Furstenberg gown with my champagne in hand and eyes on Hardy walking by the glass door of our VIP room. Having seen him play an American in so many films, it’s refreshing to finally see him portray two British characters all at once in Legend – he played the identical twin gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, two of the most notorious criminals in British history during the 1960s.
American director Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, Robin Hood, Mystic River) led the cast of Hardy, Australian actress Emily Browning, and American actor Chazz Palminteri (The Usual Suspects, A Bronx Tale, Analyse This) to appear on stage and it’s actually Palminteri who got the loudest applause from the audience. These supposedly “larger than life” characters all dwarfed in real life. Hardy later made bigger news when he shut down a reporter who tried to probe him on his sexuality at a post-screening news conference. As it turned out, the movie was weak and brutally violent, but Hardy’s performance saved the night.
As I walked by the screaming fans outside Roy Thomson Hall, I wondered whether they were fascinated by Hardy being the ‘it’ dude of the moment (he was just named one of GQ magazine’s 50 best-dressed British men in 2015) or whether it was his acting skills that they adored. We boomers like to think that our adulation of celebrities is long gone. But maybe not! We may not be lining up at TIFF in the rain like the millennials so that they could take selfies with their idols, but we continue to be fascinated by celebrities in one way or another. From flipping through People and Hello magazines at hair salons, to following our favourite entertainers in the news, boomers continue to be part of the celebrity culture.
In fact, according to www.livescience.com, scientists say they have reason to believe celebrity obsession is on the rise. People high in narcissism tend to embrace celebrity even more. The trend of taking selfies with obtrusive selfie-sticks everywhere is a perfect example of young and old narcissists everywhere. Then there’s technology that’s giving us access to the beautiful and famous. From entertainment news on TV to celebrity web sites and social media, everybody can get to know the famous people. There has always been celebrity worship, but technology has taken it to a heightened level. We boomers may frown upon the fact that Kim Kardashian has more followers on Twitter than President Obama but, in many ways, we are as guilty of obsession with celebrities as the younger generations.
Whether we worship celebrities or not, Torontonians are always proud of TIFF which, without fail, elevates our city to temporary stardom and kicks off our glorious fall weather! Kudos to the tireless Festival organizers and thousands of volunteers who are making this year’s TIFF another memorable one in the international calendar.