Di Di’s Red Carpet Reprise

wpid-imag0335.jpgLast 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.

wpid-imag0768.jpgBased 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.


wpid-imag0770.jpgAt 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 yeawpid-imag0775.jpgr’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:

Mission. Accomplished.


 **All photos taken by me. Please do not re-use without asking permission.**






Opening Night? All Right …

1378419533842Day 1 of the Toronto International Film Festival tends to open to a bit of excitement and even pandemonium.

From a programming perspective, it’s the initial one-two punch to hook cinephiles (and film festival members) who got first dibs for those big-named films, and get them talking. For the most patient of star-gazers, it’s a visual smorgasbord.

My friend Renée and I – with some trepidation – are braving the crowds to watch some of the movies the festival has to offer. (She’s also chronicling our navigation of TIFF on her blog.)

Part of that motivation was actually spurred by one of our favourite actors, Benedict Cumberbatch. He’s in town to promote not one but THREE films. The first of those, The Fifth Estate, showcases Cumberbatch’s talents in his portrayal as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The film had its first two showings Thursday evening. They were premium screenings (that is, only certain credit-card holders, members, and those who bought special tickets or packages got the privilege), so schmoes like Renée and I – who bought regular flexible packages – were shut out of getting tickets.

The third, final, and only, remaining screening happens this weekend (before the film’s general release in mid-October), and it’ll be a crapshoot as to whether we can score two last-minute tickets. Depending on initial reviews (and from what I’m hearing, they’re good), it could be a challenge.

In the meantime, it did provide what’s likely our only chance to see Cumberbatch in the flesh on the red carpet outside Roy Thomson Hall.

I can’t lie – I embraced the idea in a millisecond. Renée? She was a wee bit more ambivalent. In the end, though, we resolved to do it for the experience.

We met just after 6 p.m. and walked to the red carpet “grounds”. Unlike previous days in Toronto, the weather was brisk.

We scoped out the crowds. Not bad – it was maybe two or three people deep. We then attempted to figure out which would be the best place to stand and get the best snaps.

A woman – presumably a volunteer – came up to us and suggested we go to the other side of the fan pit, where there was a big structure with risers and pillows. Initially, I was a bit suspicious as to where we’d end up. But it turned out to be the best suggestion we were given. Despite the big display, there was still enough space to get a bit closer to the barricades.

1378420212747We fidgeted and fiddled with our phones in the cold while we waited. Renée made ended up making small-talk with some fellow fans.

A number of fans up held signs or various paraphernalia adorned with fonts and imagery from the BBC series “Sherlock”, which helped make Cumberbatch popular (and sparked our interest in North America, where he’s becoming more familiar, but still isn’t exactly a household name).

At about 6:50 p.m., we heard whoops go up from the crowd. A group of volunteers – identifiable by their orange t-shirts and head-sets – walked between the barricades, getting fans pumped for the big moment. (Not that any of these fans needed ANY pumping up whatsoever.)

Five minutes later, a sleek, black Audi sedan glided along the concrete, eliciting more squeals and whoops. But when “ordinary” people stepped out of it, you could hear “awws” of disappointment.

But that disappointment dissipated when a shiny black SUV rolled into the area just after 7 p.m. The man of the hour had arrived, in a black tuxedo and skinny bow-tie.

Arms and hands holding cameras and smartphones (mine included) immediately shot into the air. Even on my tip-toes (and I’m five-foot-seven!), I couldn’t see a thing, and had to rely on my abilities to shoot semi-blindly in Cumberbatch’s general direction.

1378422284489It’s wasn’t in vain, though – he hung a right from the vehicle and started coming our way. At first, I only saw the top of his newly-cut, sleekly-coiffed chestnut mane.

But he more or less made his way to our section and, for the briefest of moments, I got a partial look at him (and one of his renowned cheekbones) through the forest of arms and necks with my own eyes.

I craned my neck to hear him talk, and could hear him faintly, amid the noise. (If you’ve ever heard him speak, he sounds exactly as he does on screen.) My camera, though, had to be my eyes, and I managed to get a couple of decent shots, considering where we were standing.

Photo, courtesy Renée Sylvestre-Williams.
Photo, courtesy Renée Sylvestre-Williams.

I do have to hand it to Renée, as she snapped what I consider the “money shot” – a perfectly framed shot of Cumberbatch as he signed autographs.

We posted our efforts on Twitter, and within the space of an hour, we’d been retweeted dozens upon dozens of times.

Renée had had her fill, so we turned from the action and strode away. Even though we didn’t get anything signed, or get pictures with him, the experience – to me, anyhow – still felt a tad surreal.

And if not for Renée, I would have lingered a bit longer. But it was worth it just the same. Siiiigh.

So with the gawking likely out of the way, our next order of business: actually seeing some movies (and using up our TIFF movie vouchers)! Wish us luck.

(NOTE: Pictures are mine. Picture #4 property of Renée Sylvestre-Williams. Please DO NOT use without first seeking permission.)