The Toronto Film Festival paused to mark the passing of Queen Elizabeth II just as the celebration of its 47th edition returning in person, complete with red carpets and Hollywood celebrities, was set to get underway on Thursday night.
“We extend our sincerest condolences to the family and loved ones of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the day of her passing,” TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey said in a statement on the festival’s Twitter account earlier in the day.
Fest organizers were caught off guard by the sudden passing of the British monarch, who is also Canada’s longest-serving head of state as the country and its citizens remains a part of the Commonwealth. “As we prepare to welcome Canadians and international guests to the festival, we know that many will be deeply affected by her death. We keep her legacy in our memory,” Bailey added.
Paul Bronfman, chairman of Pinewood Toronto Studios, told The Hollywood Reporter about hosting a July 2010 lunch for Queen Elizabeth and her late husband, Prince Philip, as they toured his Toronto film studio to raise its profile among Hollywood tentpole producers.
Bronfman, who has multiple sclerosis, recalled not being able to stand respectfully for the singing of “God Save the Queen.” “As the Queen sat down, I said, Your Majesty, my apologies for not standing as I have MS. She just looked at me and, without batting an eyelid, said ‘That must be slightly inconvenient,’” he recalled before they held an hour long conversation over lunch.
The Royal tour included Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh donning bulky glasses for a live action 3D shoot using stereoscopic camera rigs, followed by a viewing of the scene in 3D.
As Britain gets set to bury Queen Elizabeth just as TIFF gets underway, there was an echo of the Canadian festival having to change pace on Sept. 6, 1997 when Britain held a funeral for Princess Diana after her death on Aug. 31 that year.
The Princess of Wales Theater – the scene of twice nightly TIFF premieres during the festival this year — became an impromptu shrine in 1997 to allow Torontonians to sign books of condolences in the theater lobby, which were then sent to the Royal Family in the UK.
A representative for Mirvish Productions, which also operates another key TIFF venue, the Royal Alex Theatre, told THR it will dim the marquee lights on both festival venues at 8 p.m. on Thursday night to honor Queen Elizabeth II and mark her passing.
The death of the British monarch also became a topic of conversation among Americans and other international attendees as they gathered in Toronto for the film festival on Thursday.
“I’ll be in a Commonwealth country, Canada, if Queen Elizabeth passes within the next 3 days. It’ll be surreal. Canada loves the Queen and it could put a damper on TIFF festivities as flags will be at half-mast,” Los Angeles-based film reviewer Simone Cromer with Film Independent and other publications said on her Twitter account.
And in Los Angeles, the Canadian Consulate postponed its Emmy party planned for Thursday night, which was to include a host of Canadian nominees, as the country entered a period of mourning for the British monarch.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid tribute on the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and signalled the country would hold a national day of mourning with commemorative service for the British Sovereign. “On behalf of the Government of Canada, I express our heartfelt condolences to members of the Royal Family during this most difficult time,” Trudeau said in a statement.