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Inside TIFF 2013: Flavour Bombs and Cabanas

Scarlett Johansson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Rampling, and Daniel Radcliffe.

While the head of this bloated festival belonged to Benedict Cumberbatch, TIFF’s svelte tail most certainly belongs to the newly-engaged Scarlett Johansson. Here to promote two films at the famously front-loaded fest (Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts have already flown the coop), Johansson (or perhaps her new bling) set off an armada of flashbulbs until she escaped to the soothing dim of Grey Goose Soho House, official host of the Don Jon dinner. In honour of her shrewd and savvy new rom-com with co-star and director Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the house laid out a gorgeous spread of paella, spiked watermelon salad, and savoury roast chicken.

Carrying on like campfire friends, Gordon-Levitt and his leading lady huddle together over meatballs and pizza; the fact that ScarJo eats meatballs sparks as much commentary as the intimate banter. Then again, Soho House’s famous flavour bombs fueled much late night partying earlier in the week, relished by the likes of James McAvoy, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Fassbender, and Emily Watson. Over the weekend, the scene at Soho House played out like a pre-Oscar party, with everyone from Dakota Fanning to Steve Coogan partying late into the night.

As I arrive at C Lounge for the cast party of Kill Your Darlings, throngs of Dexter fanboys and Harry Potter evangelicals have been milling around for hours to catch a glimpse of Michael C. Hall and Daniel Radcliffe. Inside, I see them making themselves right at home in the club’s chic outdoor cabanas—leaping over coffee tables and barreling into the pillows like a varsity rugby team on spring break. In one corner, Jack Huston (dreamy) schools Dane DeHaan (dreamier) on the proper way to roll up tailored shirt sleeves. Radcliffe anchors the opposite sofa, surrounded by three very-excited-but-playing-it-cool young women. Yes, this cast certainly boasts its share of eye candy, and the vibe here is refreshingly laid back—not a nagging handler in sight.

One of the best ways to approach young or emerging actors is to mention veteran actors—or better yet, obscure thespians—which disarms them immediately. Inviting their take on an industry icon reveals more about them than a direct question ever could. Famous people pick up on this code and enjoy playing along, and while Hall is neither green nor emerging, he perks up when I remark on Charlotte Rampling’s smouldering scenes in Dexter’s current season. He confides, “I can’t think of a better way to reward our loyal audience than with this twist; bringing on Rampling elevates everyone’s game. She’s beyond anything I could have ever dreamed for the show.”

Across town, AMC Storys and Virgin Mobile drew a slew of bold names throughout the evening—starting with Metallica, dropping in en masse to grab a quick bite before heading out to the world premiere of Metallica: Through The Never. Marion Cotillard stopped to sign autographs for fans, while, her husband, director Guillaume Canet, was keeping the press busy on the red carpet for the Blood Ties premiere party.

Unlike the Cannes International Film Festival where a certain, shall we say, percentage of the guest list is predicated by last minute cleavage and improvised hemlines, TIFF’s social scene is the uncontested start of the Oscar derby, reserved for bonafide industry insiders to get down to brass tacks. And while the fest may not boast the leggiest parties, TIFF’s street cred goes on for miles.