‘LOWERED EXPECTATIONS’: Some stars are coming to TIFF but practice selfies safely

“Especially right now we have to respect people’s space. Use your common sense and manners”

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TIFF begins Thursday and runs until Sept. 18 but remains a shadow of its former self — celebrity-wise — as we suffer through the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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To prevent crowds, there will only be indoor and no outdoor red carpets at either Roy Thomson Hall or the Princess of Wales Theatre and no TIFF-sanctioned parties, receptions or dinners.

So what’s a stargazer, autograph-hound or selfie-seeker to do at the normally A-list-packed event?

“This year it’s definitely a hybrid vibe,” said Toronto entertainment blogger Will Wong, who has been attending TIFF for just over two decades, and posting photos with the stars on his website, mrwillwong.com, for the last 12 years.

“I think everyone has lowered expectations. I think if anyone comes through it’s still a win over nothing.”

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This year’s festival is definitely larger than 2020 when the country was in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic without any vaccines in sight. The 2021 edition has more films, more public screenings and, at least, indoor red carpets.

Among the stars expected to attend are Jessica Chastain, Benedict Cumberbatch. Vincent D’Onofrio, Rebecca Ferguson, Andrew Garfield, Kiera Knightley, Josh O’Connor, Sigourney Weaver, directors Stephen Soderbergh (with a new film) and Denis Villeneuve (with Dune), and music documentary subjects Kenny G and Dionne Warwick.

Toronto entertainment blogger Will Wong with Jessica Chastain at TIFF 2017 for Molly’s Game.
Toronto entertainment blogger Will Wong with Jessica Chastain at TIFF 2017 for Molly’s Game. Mr. Will Wong

But with the continued threat of the Delta variant and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control just announcing that Americans should reconsider travel to Canada, that list of attendees could change up until the last minute.

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“It’s going to be super-limited,” says Wong. “I think everyone has to manage expectations, even (journalists) coming from out of town. They’re being advised there’s not going to be a lot of spots in advance in those (red carpets).”

Wong said if he sees a star — good bets are such downtown luxury hotels as the Ritz Carlton-Toronto or the Shangri-La, which often set up barricades as celebs exit and enter — he will approach them with a mask on and ask if they feel comfortable taking a photo.

“You have to have that conversation,” said Wong. “You (also) have to ask if they’re comfortable with you approaching them. Especially right now we have to respect people’s space. Use your common sense and manners.”

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In terms of safety protocols, proof of being fully vaccinated or a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours prior are required to enter TIFF venues, with the exceptions of the drive-ins where you stay in your car.

Masks are also required at all TIFF venues and if you’re unable to wear a mask due to health reasons, a face shield will be provided.

“At the very least, I know the movies are there and that’s always the heart of it but it would be nice to get some stars,” said Wong, who’s looking forward to Spencer, The Eyes of Tammy Faye and Last Night In Soho.

“It’s been so long.”

jstevenson@postmedia.com

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