Every September, Hollywood comes north and its stars brighten the city of Toronto. Although I split my life between here and New York City, Toronto is always my home and I just love the energy created by the Toronto International Film Festival. It's such an exciting time in our city! And I'm sure everyone gets a little star-struck by the sheer number of big name celebs that head our way each year.
At #TIFF13 we can expect to welcome the likes of Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep, Paul Haggis, Mila Kunis, Olivia Wilde, Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan, Benedict Cumberbatch, George Clooney, Reese Witherspoon, Catherine Keener,Ewan McGregor, Colin Firth, Matthew McConaughey, Kate Winslet, Keanu Reeves, Idris Elba, Steve McQueen,Chiwetel Ejiofor, Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ron Howard, Chris Hemsworth, Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis, Matthew Weiner... and more! For a fun take on the full list, check out this article in FASHION magazine.
You never know who you might bump into, and where.
Like last year, when my friend and CEO of Artists for Peace and Justice, David Belle, was staying with me, I came home after an event and found the Arcade Fire band members in my kitchen, trying to get my stereo to work! They were just chilling, listening to some cool tunes on a small speaker. It was pretty cool to see the band hanging out the way I do in my home!
Some of the best TIFF parties often take place in people's homes, as it creates a more intimate atmosphere. For instance, the annual Artists for Peace and Justice brunch will take place on Sunday September 8th at the private residence of Roots co-founder Michael Budman and his incredible wife Diane Bald. Guests include Canadian and international artists such as George Stroumboulopoulos, Mila Kunis, Maria Bello, Olivia Wilde, Paul Haggis and James Franco. This is a star-filled house party you can attend too -- limited tickets are still available for purchase by visiting the APJ website.
My friend, screenwriter, producer, and director Paul Haggis is the founder of APJ, encouraging peace and social justice, and addressing issues of poverty around the world with a special focus on Haiti. And at TIFF in 2010, one of my favourite memories with him was when I found myself surrounded by some of the kindest, coolest, most interesting and philanthropic men in the business at Joso's Restaurant. Our table guests kept multiplying... starting with actor Josh Brolin... continued by Javier Bardem... followed by New York-based pop artist Peter Tunney. Joso's is just one of MANY Yorkville hotspots to star-gaze. You could check out Sotto Sotto, ONE Restaurant at the Hazelton Hotel, Mideastro across from the Four Seasons Hotel and La Societe in Bloor Yorkville.
Speaking of Peter Tunney and some of my most memorable moments -- when APJ launched in 2009, we orchestrated a live red carpet/art event at the Windsor Arms. Hotel bars are another prime celeb-spotting destination, especially after hours. Try Rooftop Lounge at the Thompson Hotel, TOCA at the Ritz-Carlton, the Shangri-La lobby on University, and the Park Hyatt's Roof Lounge. On this occasion at the Windsor Arms, we had celebrities like Olivia Wilde, Colin Farrell and Kim Cattrall take their shoes off, dip their feet in red paint, and walk along the carpet -- creating a live art installation. It sent a strong message that, together and one step at a time, we can make a difference in the lives of children in Haiti. The result of this collaboration was a very powerful installation, something I'll never forget.
Don't worry if you aren't able to attend the major events during the Toronto International Film Festival. Not everyone can make them all, but that's okay! Some of the best places to spot celebs will be in those hotels, restaurants and coffee shops near the TIFF Bell Lightbox on King Street West or in the Bloor-Yorkville neighbourhood uptown. Both the King Street West Starbucks and the Starbucks between Yorkville and Bloor will be filled with Star power.
Downtown, check out O&B Canteen in TIFF Bell Lightbox, Soho House on Adelaide West or King West hotspot The Spoke Club, which will play host for the fifth consecutive year to Nikki Beach, a chic all-white beach club concept that was called the "Sexiest Place on Earth" by the London Observer.
No matter who you're hoping to see, you'll definitely not miss the buzz that's already begun to fly around the city. Every September our humble city becomes a glitzy celeb mecca; we love having Hollywood here and Hollywood loves coming. Our enthusiasm, friendliness and passion for its movers-and-shakers sets the stage for a successful festival and helps make Toronto a major player in the industry. After all, TIFF is world-renowned for being a stepping stone to the Oscars. And you can't get more influential than that!
Visit the IT Lounge Film Festival Survival Guide for more tips on where to spot your favourite celebs!