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Inside TIFF 2014: Bill Murray Day

Bill Murray, Tom Hardy, Harvey Weinstein, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and Naomi Watts.

By far the hottest invitation of the night, the Hudson’s Bay bash for the world premiere of St. Vincent quickly turned into a wild kingdom of revelry. Befitting of the end of the Toronto International Film Festival’s official Bill Murray Day, the veteran actor earned a thundering ovation at the Princess of Wales Theatre for his latest role. And the applause wasn’t all that was thundering; a monsoon struck at around 11:00 p.m., creating a deluge so torrential it separated the gentlemen from the chavs. While some sprinted across the carpet, other more genteel types, such as Mr. Tom Hardy, removed jackets to shield co-stars making their way into Patria on King Street West.

The flash storm created a kind of Noah’s Ark atmosphere. The agents went in two by two, debating early awards season contenders. Next, a pair of producers rolled in looking for towels. A duo of handlers descended, rearranging the seating not once but twice. Finally, Bill Murray shuffled in, greeted like an emperor as he settled in next to co-stars Naomi Watts and Melissa McCarthy.

Hollywood’s most famous white elephant held court over a low table set with flickering Hudson’s Bay striped candles and a bounty of Patria’s greatest menu hits. This is the way to start a conversation with Murray: start with spirit animals and work your way on to shoestring fries versus kettle chips. “This just keeps getting better,” he said, shimmying to Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. “We’re not going home anytime soon.”

As the official affair to fete the great Murray, every celebrity in town defected from their own events to get into this party. Was there a Ghostbusters beacon shining in the sky over Patria? Hudson’s Bay blankets were put to the absorption test as everyone from Noomi Rapace to The Good Wife’s Josh Charles used the iconic stripes to towel off the rain. As the distributor of St. Vincent, Harvey Weinstein made the rounds, mingling with Looper producer James D. Stern.

Outside, the covered patio was colonized by the Brits as The Drop co-stars Hardy—down to the final three buttons on his crisp white shirt—and Rapace downed a round of Grey Goose VX signature serve cocktails. Soon enough, Hardy’s entourage doubled and it became a bit like watching a tennis match—the droll wit of Murray on the left and the brooding sensuality of Hardy on the right.

The arrival of Kristen Wiig set off a sonic boom as suddenly everyone in Murray’s section—McCarthy, Watts, Scott Speedman—got up and started dancing. Wiig and McCarthy engaged in a robotic dance off—McCarthy with traditional L-shaped arms while Wiig brought the funk, simulating a short circuit. After chugging an entire beer Animal House-style, Murray joined, his version of the robot involved hinging from the waist, as if he needed a squirt of WD-40. This is what it must be like on the Saturday Night Live stage at end of the show, when everyone starts hugging and dancing as credits roll. This was, hands down, one of the most enjoyable festival parties of recent memory.

Earlier in the evening at Michael’s on Simcoe, the Moët & Chandon party for Ruth & Alex was a bubbly, civilized affair. There’s a lot to celebrate with this TIFF Gala Presentation starring Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton. It’s the actors we know and love as God and Annie Hall after all, and nothing says celebration like Moët’s famous gold glassware. As trays of champagne circulated the room, the arrival of the film’s stars set off a wave of relief. There was literal drama in the air as Freeman had decided to pilot himself to the festival.

Freeman landed safely in Toronto after suffering a mechanical malfunction on the private jet he was piloting from Mississippi. The aviation enthusiast owns two personal aircrafts. “The slats wouldn’t retract in the air so we went back and swapped planes,” he said, after arriving more than 90 minutes late to the party. “Sure glad we didn’t miss this party … it’s a pretty one!” The 77-year-old, who has had his pilot’s license since he was 65, didn’t look shaken and seemed more peckish than anything else. He eagerly tucked into executive chef Derek von Raesfeld’s crispy shrimp and charcuterie on crostino.

Keaton’s arrival in a crisp white pantsuit caused a stir of admiration. One fan was so flustered, his typically smooth, baritone voice rose two octaves. In the film, Freeman and Keaton play a married New York couple who have lived in the same East Village apartment for 40 years. Over the course of a long weekend, they endure a pushy realtor, a bidding war, and a sick dog. And the city’s on high alert due to a terror threat.

Over at Trump Toronto, Tootsie was in the house. Dustin Hoffman stunned guests with a matching pledge to the Creative Coalition Spotlight Awards Gala presented by AMC. Based in New York, the nonprofit was founded in 1989 by Ron Silver and other entertainment industry luminaries to advocate for the arts and entertainers. “We need you to keep doing what you’re doing,” he praised. He then turned to Coalition CEO Robin Bronk and rallied, “I’ll match the amount you bring in tonight,” inciting the crowd to dig deep.

This year’s dinner honoured the Internet Movie Database’s Col Needham, the Gersh Agency’s Jay Cohen, and the film Boychoir, featuring guests Hoffman, Eddie Izzard, Josh Lucas, Kevin McHale, and director François Girard. Needham and Cohen graciously accepted their awards whilst Izzard and McHale disappeared post-appetizer to reappear onstage following Boychoir’s premiere, and then hoofed it back to the event in the late-summer downpour.

As I arrived, everyone was already seated in the main room. Lucas was alone at the bar, schooling the bartender in how to make a dirty martini even dirtier. He commented on the audience’s reaction to Boychoir: “They warmed to our younger cast members immediately, it’s a great experience for them. TIFF audiences are always so engaged, switched on. It’s a great launch pad for this kind of film.”

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