Novice on the red carpet: Juliette Lewis liked my purse!

At TIFF2011, Jessica Allen learned the ins and outs of celebrity hunting. Now she's back ...

Juliette lewis liked my purse!

Jeff Vespa/Getty Images

A novice navigating Toronto International Film Festival nightlife on the opening Friday and Saturday eves of the festival—the only nights, the pros will tell you, that guarantee spotting gaggles of A-list celebrities—is a comedy of errors. Mistakes are inevitable, like leaving George Strombolopolous’s party at ONE restaurant uptown on Friday night in order to get downtown to Soho House—a pop-up club sponsored by Grey Goose in an old brick building—because Twitter, the all-knowing oracle of TIFF, which was difficult to consult earlier (because there was dinner with Harvey Weinstein to report on), says that the cast of Ides of March, including George Clooney, Ryan Reynolds and Philip Seymour Hoffman, are there, not to mention Mark Wahlberg, who has got behind the bar to make cocktails for himself and his entourage, and Tilda Swinton, who is at this very moment eating dinner. Of course, upon arrival, the stars have left and Swinton is out of sight.

And then at 2:30 a.m., after getting home empty-handed from Goodnight, a back-alley bar that was last year’s hot spot for Toronto elites and Hollywood A-listers, Twitter professes that Jon Hamm, Gerard Butler, Bono and others ended up at ONE, where the night began.

Still, even novices have some successes: at the Vanity Fair-Belvedere-Fox Searchlight party at Scarpetta on Saturday night, where Clooney and Bono enjoyed dinner, Kirsten Dunst sits in a corner, fresh-faced and pretty in a polka-dot blouse and floor-length breezy skirt, sipping on a cocktail and attending to her BlackBerry. A tall, fair-haired, blue-eyed gent in a sharp suit tries to get her attention. But Dunst acknowledges his presence only after finishing her cellular task. “Oh, hey Alex,” she smiles coyly. That would be Alexander Skarsgård, who stars with Dunst in Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia. Tonight he’s all smiles and happily obliges fans who politely ask for cellphone photo ops. As a woman passes her BlackBerry to her husband, the Swedish True Blood star grins, wraps one arm around her waist while holding a pint of beer behind his back and contorts his face into a smouldering frown replete with puckered lips and a singular raised eyebrow. He’s become his vampire character, Eric. And then it’s the novice’s turn: Juliette Lewis, who is far less severe-looking in person than she is in photos, grabs hold of her vintage sparkly purse and turns it over for inspection. “I like this.”

The novice suspects the army of caterers, servers and security working the countless parties across the city might proffer up juicy details. And she’s proved right. “You know who I saw today?” says a friendly security guard on the rooftop of the Bell Lightbox around midnight on Saturday. “Tom Cruise, Kathy and that little girl.” “You mean Katie and Suri?” “Yes,” she says excitedly. “The little one is so cute!” She’s gearing up for the stars of Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz to show up for their after-party. But at the moment, she needs only contend with the corporate types and their elegant dates in shiny dresses and sky-high heels who’ve paid good money to fill the reserved upper terraced steps outfitted with plush couches and candlelit tables. It’s fitting, really: the rich and famous literally look down on the plebs below who can’t afford bottle service.

There’ll even be times when the novice finds herself at exactly the right spot at the right time: on the red carpet, a lean-looking young man in a form-fitting leather jacket ducks below camera view and makes a run for the rooftop patio. It’s Jonah Hill. Joining him soon after are Sarah Silverman, Seth Rogen and Polley, the director of the movie. And just then, as the security guard whispers, “You know, sometimes they bring in marijuana here, but I say good for them,” Silverman takes a long drag on a joint.

Back at Soho House, it turns out that Jon Hamm leaned across a table to chat with Alexander Skarsgård, Ryan Gosling talked up Emily Blunt, who later danced with Anna Fris, and Skarsgård made friends with Gerard Butler while Hamm got intimate with Clooney, who stayed at Soho House with new girlfriend Stacy Keibler for over four hours.

And just like that, the celebrity-spotting gauntlet has been thrown down.

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