It was like that in 1963 when the Frank Sinatra flick Suddenly, with its theme about the assassination of a U.S. president, was quickly pulled from screens in the aftermath of John F. Kennedy's murder in Dallas.
On Tuesday, it was like that again at the Toronto Film Festival. Instead of excited voices chatting up a film project or gushing over the latest blood-and-guts action flick, a pall fell over the cinematic celebration, and the stars were silenced.
With attendees huddled, gape-mouthed in the hotel lounge and press office, TV sets that normally carried festival feeds were running all-news channels with images of the collapsing World Trade Center, smoldering Pentagon and the wreckage in Pennsylvania.
By midday, festival organizers canceled all screenings and press conferences, and the lobby of the Hyatt hotel grew somber as stars, directors, producers and reporters all came together in stunned grief.
Though festival director Piers Handling reopened the festival Wednesday, the terrorist horrors had changed everything. The screenings and press conferences would continue, he said, but all parties, celebrations and red-carpet events were canceled.
Meanwhile, several actors have been stranded at the festival, unable to return to their day jobs. Production on Friends remains shut down because David Schwimmer is stuck at Toronto, and CBS' new The Education of Max Bickford is also shuttered while costar Helen Shaver waits for a plane back to L.A.
Just two days earlier, Toronto was abuzz with the heroism of Matthew McConaughey, who came to the rescue of one Janice Flisfeder, a woman in the audience who suffered a seizure. While most people stayed in their seats and the film kept rolling--McConaughey, seated across the aisle from the stricken woman, leaped up and gave the woman mouth-to-mouth until she recovered.
Though McConaughey later described his heroics as "no big deal," the first thing the woman said when she revived was how much she was enjoying his new movie--Thirteeen Conversations About One Thing, which explores the meanings of hope, life and destiny.
The festival continues through the weekend.