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Inside TIFF 2013: Bubbly-Fuelled Fetes and Bear Hugs

Brad Pitt, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Brad, Brad, Brad. Sure, it’s the Toronto International Film Festival, and we’re hosting a boatload of boldface in town, but on Friday night, the iconic face every festival goer wants to see is Brad Pitt. He arrives at the 12 Years a Slave premiere at the Princess of Wales Theatre in full diplomatic mode. Unlike red carpets past, darting his way inside faster than a squirrel on speed, Pitt chats amiably with the assembled media about the historic drama, in which Pitt plays a Canadian abolitionist and earns a producing credit. The Steve McQueen-helmed picture is receiving outstanding reviews, generating early Oscar buzz.

A few blocks away, Nicole Kidman enjoys a civilized sit down at SodaStream’s bubbly affair for The Railway Man at Live at the Hive on King West. At one point, she even slips off her heels and savours a few nibbles on the coffee table. Channelling Grace Kelly, Kidman looks effortlessly chic with her honey blonde locks in an artful chignon, sporting a tailored Altuzarra black suit. Co-star Colin Firth, arrives with wife Livia and makes a beeline for the patio to catch up with supporters. Having interviewed the Oscar winner a few times, I congratulate him on the premiere and soon we’re chatting film locations and cinema-inspired travel itineraries. “You must go to Berwick-upon-Tweed, where we shot some of the key scenes,” he says. “And stop at St Monans Church on the Fife coast.” Scotland, here I come.

Later in the evening, I pop up to the subdued second floor of Soho House to seek refuge. As I fret over my notes, who should sit right next to me at the communal harvest table but Hugh Jackman, followed moments later by Jake Gyllenhaal. For a surreal minute, I wonder if I’m hallucinating. At times, after hunting and gathering anecdotes for hours, the TIFF gods will land the best stories, literally in your lap. All I recall from the first few moments was a whole lot of bear-hugging helicoptering over my head—forearms and torsos surging like anacondas in cashmere wool sack. Were Wolverine and the Prince of Persia going to rough house it right here on this harvest table? The pair, in a jubilant mood after their film’s warm reception here, used the occasion to pay homage to Sue Kroll, president of worldwide marketing and international distribution for Warner Bros. Pictures. At one point, each of them held her hand devoutly, as if pledging an oath to The Godfather, only to be interrupted by Idris Elba, in town to promote his performance as Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. It’s a refreshing antidote to the Harvey Weinstein syndrome to see a woman executive at the head of the table.

Other notable events:

Earlier in the evening, Susan Sarandon held court at Moët & Chandon’s stunning champagne-fuelled fete for The Last of Robin Hood at the Park Hyatt Sky Yard. As golden goblets of bubbly circulated the room, so did Sarandon, stopping to catch up with host Stéphane Baschiera, CEO of Champagne Moët & Chandon. Sarandon was escorted by Jonathan Bricklin, her business partner and boyfriend, a delicious 30 years her junior.

Haute hotelier Michael Achenbaum parties with Ben Affleck, Rihanna, and Kim Kardashian on an average night at one of his multiple hotel lounges—in New York, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Miami Beach. At TIFF, he put on the ritz for a very deserving film, Hateship Loveship, based a short story by revered Canadian writer Alice Munro starring Saturday Night Live alum Kristen Wiig. Wiig and director Liza Johnson kicked back in C Lounge’s revamped cabanas, enjoying thick cut fries and sirloin steak.

Over at AMC Storys the Grolsch-sponsored cast party for Horns was thumping, with Daniel Radcliffe and Juno Temple letting their hair down in this multi-level private event housed in one of downtown Toronto’s finest historical brick-and-beam buildings.

Watch this space for more from Si Si Penaloza at the Toronto International Film Festival.