Montreal actor Jay Baruchel will be at the Toronto International Film Festival next week to promote hockey movie Goon, which he co-wrote and co-produced (and also stars in). A regular at TIFF, Baruchel first made the rounds in 2005 for indie hit Fetching Cody, followed by Just Buried (2007), Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008), The Trotsky (2009) and Good Neighbours (2010). Here, he discusses how his festival experiences have changed over the years, and why he keeps coming back. As told to Vanessa Farquharson
I’ve just returned from a trip to Italy, endured a root canal, finished a writing project and couldn’t be more ready for TIFF. To be honest, as an actor, I don’t usually enjoy the festival circuit — a lot of these events are really just a chance for people to get their hands on free crap, and I always end up leaving with a bad taste in my mouth — but the festival in Toronto is different. It’s on track to be the biggest in the world and yet the organizers still seem to care about the actual films, which is rare these days.
I also love that Canadian productions get much-deserved time in the spotlight and that our talent is appropriately recognized. I’ve always been treated well at TIFF and have nothing but fond memories.
I can still recall my first festival experience — it was 2005, sweltering hot, and I flew in from Los Angeles for an intense two days of interviews and special appearances. There was so much walking and talking and sweating, and no one even knew who I was at that point. But it was exhilarating. I had my mom there (I’m a total momma’s boy and I bring her as my plus-one to every festival), and she was loving it; we had a solid Keanu Reeves spotting, and James Caan held a door open for her.
By now, I’ve got more of a handle on TIFF. I have a better sense of what’s required of me on both a physical and mental level. I make sure I take naps in whatever spare moments I can find, and I’ll sneak down to the McDonald’s next to the Intercontinental Hotel on Bloor Street for an extra-large Coke to keep me going. The key to maintaining focus during back-to-back interviews or red carpet bombardments is to block out every distraction, repress all moments of self-awareness and just do it.
It’s also important to push the pause button every now and then, to just stop and have fun. Hockey is my one true love — as audiences will hopefully come to understand after watching Goon — so I always visit the Hockey Hall of Fame.
I don’t really do the party scene, but the nice thing about Toronto is that if I do go out, people don’t hesitate to come up and say how much they loved The Trotsky or another one of my films and, I’m not gonna lie, that feels pretty awesome. In Montreal, everyone is bored of me.
I guess that’s another thing I really enjoy about TIFF: The whole city gets buzzed on film and there’s a cool kind of love in the air. It’s an atmosphere that’s supportive rather than judgmental, making it very easy to muster the courage to walk up to someone famous and strike up a conversation. I normally lean toward being anti-social, but in this environment, I have no problem cornering filmmakers and letting them know how much their work has meant to me — this happened once with Brian De Palma.
Eventually, I hope to start participating in the festival as a director. There’s no question that I enjoy entertaining people, but performing has never been my raison d’être. Ever since I was nine years old, the only thing I’ve wanted to do in life is direct horror movies in Montreal. This year, I finally made the decision to focus on this goal, so I’ve only spent two days on camera and the rest of the time I’ve been writing. We’ll see what happens, but I’d love to come back to TIFF wearing a director’s hat.