Last year, my friend Renée and I went to TIFF’s red carpet for The Fifth Estate to see Benedict Cumberbatch, and experienced the frenzy of being surrounded by many, MANY (mostly young) fans of his.
The experience was actually decent. Renée got a really good look at him. And although I captured his face on camera, I really only got to see a fraction of his face in real life. So whenever we made small-talk with folks about which actors we saw during TIFF, I’d joke that I got to see Benedict’s left cheekbone.
As I mentioned in my post last week, Renée and I had talked about making another trip down to the red carpet if he returned to Toronto. But she recently started a new (and, may I add, pretty rad) job, so she wouldn’t be able to join me.
Did I really want to endure the commute and brave the crazy crowds alone, just to have another crack at taking a better photo and seeing him in the flesh? I mean, the thing that made it fun was that I was doing this with a friend. But now, the idea of going solo made me feel kind of … sheepish.
But last Tuesday, after some waffling, I shoved my dignity deep into my purse and trekked down to this year’s red carpet for The Imitation Game, a historical drama starring Cumberbatch as mathematician, cryptographer, code-breaker and forefather of the modern-day computer, Alan Turing.
Based on last year’s experience, I’d originally intended to get down to the barricades across from the theatre for around 3:30 p.m. But I dragged my feet and didn’t arrive until 4:15 p.m.
Naturally, the place was teeming with people by the time I arrived. The area directly in front of the theatre entrance was already clogged with fans.
I approached the easternmost edge of the crowd and gradually sidled about 30 feet westward until I was directly behind a group of young women, chatting excitedly and getting to know each other through their love of Benedict (or “Ben C.”, as one of them called him, as if he was the high school heartthrob.)
Eventually, a woman dressed in black, wearing a headset and bedazzled TIFF lanyard, made her way along the crowds to explain to us that (1) she was the red carpet coordinator, and (2) she’d do our best to let us know when the actors arrived outside the theatre.
The young women in front of me had been hedging their bets that, since Benedict was the biggest star of the film, he’d likely arrive last.
At about 5:10 p.m., the red carpet coordinator walked eastward along King St., and — just in front of our section — announced in a loud voice, “BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH.”
Colour me surprised.
The whoops and shrieks started.
Sure enough, an SUV pulled up, and out he jumped.
The crowd lost. Their. Minds.
He strode over to the largest fan cluster, took a selfie (or, more accurately, group shot) with fans — his TIFF trademark — then shuffled eastward toward us, signing autographs.
The young women in front of me yelled his name, clamouring to get their items signed; when he reached our section, maybe one or two got an autograph, leaving the rest of the group a bit disappointed.
But since I got closer to the barricades than I did last year (I may have cut my distance by half), I definitely got what I wanted.
I didn’t hear him speak this time around, but I couldn’t believe my good fortune at what I could see.
Gone was last year’s tux, replaced with a sharp suit. His hair – lighter in hue – was doing great things, and he’d donned some specs for the occasion.
I held up my phone and clicked.
(Then, I did what seemed like the next logical step – I posted that bad boy onto Instagram and Twitter. And that’s when the retweets from Japan began.
Within a few hours, I’d gotten over 120 retweets and almost as many favourites — which, I admit, filled me with absolute glee.)
It’s a very bizarre sort of high, snapping a photo of someone I’ll probably never meet. He’s just another human being, who happens to have a very creative job.
But as he breezed by — his publicist a pace or so behind — and we set eyes upon him, we couldn’t help gasping amongst ourselves, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I saw him! That’s amazing!” and grinning uncontrollably.
And as quickly as he’d come, he strode in the other direction for another half-lap, before heading inside for red carpet photos and a gauntlet of TV interviews.
The girls in front of me kept yelling and screaming, in hopes he might come back. But he was gone.
The other stars arrived; only Keira Knightley briefly stopped outside for autographs before heading inside. But the frenzy was over.
I had a brief chat with a Japanese woman who’d come to Toronto for this (well, the movie as well as the red carpet). She’d gotten a lady right against the barricades to snap a photo with her digital camera, and it was super-close. But after seeing mine, she wanted a copy for herself. I tried to send her a copy, but was unsuccessful.
Now that I’ve done it, do I still feel foolish? Not as much, no. And I also saw the film Friday night, which I’ll write about in the coming days. But at this moment, two words filled me with a sense of satisfaction:
**All photos taken by me. Please do not re-use without asking permission.**