'I’m really in a film': Kate Winslet, Sir Anthony Hopkins and other stars share their most memorable festival moments

Elisabetta Bianchini
·4 min read

Kate Winslet (Ammonite) might be one of Hollywood’s biggest stars but it was her experience as an 18-year-old at the Venice Film Festival with Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures that made her really key into the fact that she was a film actor.

At a press conference ahead of the Toronto International Film Festival’s TIFF Tribute Awards on Tuesday night, Winslet explained that the film’s marketing budget back in 1994 didn’t allow people to stay for any longer than was absolutely necessary. Winslet was in Venice for 24 hours while her publicist couldn’t even get a hotel room and roamed the streets all night. It was seeing the film in that context that was a real revelation for her.

“It was...the moment the penny dropped for me,” she said. “I’m really in a film.”

While all festival’s hold a special place for actors and filmmakers, even the most A-list stars recognize that TIFF is a particularly unique festival in the industry.

“TIFF’s thought provoking films and independent films and emerging talent...to still be here...contributing and sharing even in this strange platform, it’s just so important to keep connecting and sharing like this,” Winslet said on Tuesday ahead of receiving the TIFF Tribute Actor Award.

Famed actor Sir Anthony Hopkins (The Father), also receiving the TIFF Tribute Actor Award, described Toronto’s festival as an “intimate” event in a way that makes it “feel like home.”

Mira Nair attends the “Queen of Katwe” premiere on day 3 of the Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Toronto. (Photo by Jesse Herzog/Invision/AP)
Mira Nair attends the “Queen of Katwe” premiere on day 3 of the Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Toronto. (Photo by Jesse Herzog/Invision/AP)

‘The world had changed in the space of two hours’

Director Mira Nair (A Suitable Boy), receiving the Jeff Skoll Award in Impact Media, experienced a particularly life-changing moment at TIFF back in 2001. Her film Monsoon Wedding received the coveted Golden Lion prize at the Venice Film Festival that year and was brought to Toronto just days later. During the Sept. 11 press screening for the film in the world changed.

“People came out dancing from the theatre and the world had changed in the space of two hours,” Nair remembered. “We all came together and we all stayed together.”

“It was bewildering and comforting and confusing but we hung in there and that night when the premiere was supposed to be...we instead had this big Indian dinner and everybody came. That was a passionate time.”

The director went on to say that TIFF has the “most worldly” curation of films. which makes filmmakers from around the world feel like they matter and that there are audiences that can “seen themselves on screen.”

This year, Chloé Zhao won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival with Nomadland, starring Frances McDormand.

“I was in a parking lot in Pasadena when that happened,” Zhao revealed on Tuesday.

Also screening at TIFF, Nomadland explores the world of modern-day nomads across the American West. McDormand’s intoxicating performance is set to be iconic. Adapted from Jessica Bruder's book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, Zhao’s film features many real-life nomads and their stories are as compelling and thoughtful as McDormand’s role in the film.

At Tuesday’s press conference, the director went on to say that getting early support, in settings like festivals, can allow a filmmaker to “not feel the need to conform” and personally allowed her to explore what she wanted to say in her work.

Canadian filmmaker ‘on cloud nine’

While TIFF was praised for international film selections, Canadian filmmaker Tracey Deer is receiving the TIFF Emerging Talent Award on Tuesday for her film Beans.

Deer’s film is certainly a highlight of the 2020 Toronto festival. It tells the story of the “Oka Crisis,” specifically the standoff between two Mohawk communities, and Quebec and Canadian officers and officials, between July and September 1990. The lead character Beans, played by Kiawentiio, is a bright, determined and charismatic 12-year-old and we see her face a number of challenges as she grapples with growing up during increasing tensions in her community.

The filmmaker was part of TIFF’s talent development program and said she is “on cloud nine” after receiving an award from the festival this year. Deer has been working on Beans for about a decade and she admitted she struggled with making sure she was doing the story justice.

She credits TIFF’s filmmaker lab in 2018, in particular, for enabling her to work through some of her vulnerabilities and doubts.

Other award winners include composer Terence Blanchard, who is receiving the TIFF Variety Artisan Award. Blanchard’s score can be heard in two TIFF’s most highly anticipated films, Halle Berry’s Bruised and Regina King’s One Night in Miami.

The TIFF Tribute Awards will air on Sept. 15 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT on CTV. The broadcast will also be streamed internationally by Variety at 8:30pm ET/5:30pm PT. Shawn Mendes will perform while Olivia Colman, Regina King, Ava DuVernay, Colin Farrell, Jodie Foster and more present awards.