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TIFF PRESS CONFERENCE: Tom Hanks gets everyone laughing (and singing) at the Cloud Atlas presser

Okay, first things first. The following four thousand people were in attendance at TIFF’s press conference for the epic sci-fi/fantasy spectacular Cloud Atlas: Actors Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Keith David, Ben Whishaw, Zhou Xun, James D’Arcy, David Gyasi and Hugh Grant, plus the film’s three directors, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski. Oh, and moderator Richard Crouse (the stage was so crowded he had to sit on the floor). It was Grant’s birthday, so Hanks opened the proceedings by leading a “Happy Birthday to Hugh” singalong. “Thank you!” Grant beamed. “That’s the first nice thing the press have done for me!” Grant’s snarking was one of the highlights. But, duh, the star of the show was Hanks, who proved again that he’s the nicest man in Hollywood, if not the whole entire world. (Even though he plays a bad guy, or three, in Cloud Atlas.)

Hanks talked about his attraction to the ambitious material and his limited experience making science-fiction movies, which until Cloud Atlas had amounted to crashing the set of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan during his days as the co-star of TV’s Bosom Buddies. But while Hanks was mostly all smiles, he did ask a question of the press gallery, and of the Toronto International Film Festival in general. “Why do you herd your celebrities through pens like bulls to the slaughter?” he asked, referring to the fest’s narrow red carpet warrens. When asked about the power of his celebrity, Hanks kept things honest. “If I truly had power, I’d be water-skiing right now.”