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From the Archives: a look back on TIFF’s most memorable moments

Oh, Snap
This month, the Toronto International Film Festival celebrates its 35th year with a glossy new home in the Bell Lightbox. Much has changed since the inaugural year, when Hollywood studios turned up their noses at the fledging fest. Then again, much hasn’t. It’s still two weeks of celebrities and fans behaving badly. Here, a look back on TIFF’s most memorable moments, from the coke-fuelled ’70s to the paparazzi-riddled oughties.


Robbie Robertsonarrow to the leftFestival judge Robbie Robertson orders the Plaza II Hotel’s entire stash of Dom Perignon within an hour of arriving. TIFF director Wayne Clarkson shows up to investigate (the Festival was still picking up celebrity tabs then) and finds what he calls “a true rock-and-roll fornicatorium.”

Scene from Pretty BabyThe Ontario Censor Board shows some prude attitude by banning Louis Malle’s Pretty Baby, starring a pre-teen Brooke Shields as a prostitute.arrow to the right

Nothing if not consistent, the censor board demands that 35 seconds of sofa-shaking sex be cut from the Canadian film In Praise of Older Women. Rebel TIFF staffers smuggle the original film reel into the theatre and show the uncut version.


Lee MajorsOn the rebound from Farrah Fawcett, the Six Million Dollar Man, Lee Majors, arrives at a festival soirée with Karen Kain on his arm, telling reporters, “It’s quite a responsibility going out with Canada’s national treasure, but then I was married to America’s.”


In the days before tweens hogged the limelight, the Divine Miss M. sparks a riot at the premiere of her musical Divine Madness.


Robert De NiroAt an illegal after-hours club, Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel reportedly snort more coke than Tony Montana on a tear. De Niro then asks festival staffer Michael Copeman to stand guard at the bathroom door while he becomes better acquainted with a new female friend.arrow to the right

Newbie filmmakers Atom Egoyan and Bruce McDonald get two thumbs up for self-promotion: after both are rejected by the festival, they don matching tuxes and gloves to screen their shorts—Open House and Let Me See, respectively—outside the main festival theatre.


Cover of the Big Chillarrow to the leftThe star-stacked Big Chill opens the festival, officially ushering in the era of Holly­wood celebrity that dominates TIFF today.

Glenn CloseAn unseasoned TIFF volunteer shows up at Glenn Close’s suite and blurts out, “Oh, I thought you were a man!” Close throws a first-class don’t-you-know-who-I am diva fit.arrow to the right


Attempting to get close to Jack Nicholson in the VIP section of TIFF hot spot Copa, reporter Susan Ferrier MacKay holds up a sign reading “Want to dance?” Nicholson mouths back “No, thank you,” then turns to his fellow partier and says, “Pity she used the wrong verb.”


Fourteen-year-old ingenue Margaret Langrick, starring in My American Cousin, works the party circuit with cigarette and wine glass in hand.


Andre the Giant

Too big for regular theatre seats, pro wrestler turned Princess Bride star André the Giant gets an orange vinyl bench crafted to accommodate his seven-foot-four, 500-pound girth.


Bruce McDonaldFestival employee Don McKellar helps Drugstore Cowboy co-stars Matt Dillon and Kelly Lynch avoid the red carpet crowds by taking them up to the Varsity theatre in a freight elevator, which breaks down, forcing the trio to make awkward chit-chat while waiting for maintenance workers.

Michael Moorearrow to the leftBruce McDonald accepts the $25,000 best Canadian film prize for Roadkill, happily announcing it would buy him “a big chunk of hash.”

Celebs and film fans fight for space at the ROM screening of Michael Moore’s Roger and Me, prompting threats from the fire marshal and the evacuation of standing fans.arrow to the right