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Chaos over Brangelina; Clooney stirs up crowd

Major stars were out in full force over the weekend as the city's hotspots morphed into VIP galas

From Monday's Globe and Mail

Matt Damon, host of the One X One fundraiser, jumped into the fun to help raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for international charities for impoverished children by bidding on one of the lots himself last night.

What started off as a ride with Lance Armstrong snowballed into a dinner prepared by supermodel Petra Nemcova and Mr. Damon's wife, Luciana, a private home concert from Wyclef Jean and tickets to an Elton John concert.

CTVglobemedia head Ivan Fecan was also a winning bidder at $150,000, with Mr. Damon matching the amount.

The Toronto International Film Festival is about business, but this year is also about giving back. Earlier in the day, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie stopped by the IT Lounge showcasing lifestyle products and chose to donate their luxe loot bags to Big Brothers and Sisters of Canada.

Later last night, Sean Penn celebrated the screening of his film Into the Wild - which premieres tonight - with what will likely be among the festival's best private parties.

Having already spent the past two nights at Roof II in the Park Hyatt Hotel, he invited 200 A-list Hollywood types to join him. The eclectic mix included Ben Affleck, Vince Vaughan, Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, Jena Malone and William Hurt. The Ian Schrager space with an incomparable view started filling at 11.

On Saturday night, Mr. Affleck and Jennifer Garner got into Amber lounge while Brangelina did not. To be clear, this had nothing to do with the Yorkville hotspot's velvet rope and everything to do with rabid fans who, according to a bystander, descended on Brangelina's car so furiously that there was no opportunity for them to exit.

As a result, the after-party for The Assassination of Jessie James lacked its marquee star, who alternatively spent his night at the Park Hyatt's Roof II, though co-star Casey Affleck, his older brother, Ben, and the bespectacled and beautiful Ms. Garner were among the celebs who chilled out within Amber's tented back patio.

A Toronto schmoozer says owner Toufik Sarwa assumed the role of consummate host for the low-key Warner Brothers private gathering, ensuring that Tilda Swinton was well looked after with cocktails as she held her regal place at the bar. Pal Bjork - her forehead painted blue, as if we should be surprised - flitted about, busting a few moves and then quickly changing her mind.

This was just one of the many star-filled sketches that played out as a "Saturday Night Live: TIFF edition" over the weekend.

But first, let's back up to Friday, because I realize that everyone wants to read about George Clooney sooner rather than later. Arriving at the Design Exchange just before midnight for the first of Time Magazine's three festival parties, I feared the salt-and-pepper haired gent might have already left. Turns out, he hadn't even showed, and paparazzi and partygoers alike were starting to get antsy. Reese Witherspoon, Jake Gyllenhaal, Clive Owen and Don Cheadle separated themselves from the increasingly maddened crowd, placated only by fresh sushi and a risotto station.

Just as Norman Jewison and partner Lynne St. David entered the Art Deco room, making a beeline for the VIP entrance, so did Mr. Clooney. They warmly embraced as people pooled around them. "I've got to have one drink here and then I'm leaving," Mr. Clooney told him. Later that night, he stopped in at Bird, the speakeasy-esque space above Xacutti on College Street.

At the Holt Renfrew party, Sienna Miller and sister Savannah were being feted for their new fashion line Twenty8Twelve in a circus-cum-cabaret themed soirée.

Over at the bar, Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush sipped a double vodka, while he embellished the story behind the tiny wound on his forehead. "You should have seen how bad the other Aussie got it. That Russell Crowe, he certainly had it coming." In all seriousness, the Pirates of the Caribbean madman said he absentmindedly walked into a tree.

The moguls were the message at the annual George Christy chicken-pot-pie lunch, where the septuagenarian and patron saint of Hollywood journalism also invited a few dozen local notables to a cocktail reception.

The packed Four Seasons Avenue Bar drew director Ivan Reitman, Garth Drabinsky, L.A. PR darling Penny Siegal, Jacqueline Hennessey (twin sister of Jill), Elizabeth: The Golden Age director Shekhar Kapur, Woody Harrelson and Mr. Rush (we shared another brief laugh).

Stars love to meat and greet. Not only did Mortons Steakhouse play host to Harvey Weinstein and Peter Sarsgaard on Friday night, but it scored a prime booking as the dinner destination for Brangelina prior to their movie screening Saturday night.

And to quell rumours that Angelina doesn't eat, I found her in a window table at the Park Hyatt's mezzanine bar on Saturday having lunch. With two people who definitely looked more business-y than friends or family, the slim goodwill ambassador (dressed in a dolman-sleeved grey sweater and skirt) ordered what looked to be a pizza or flatbread.

Phew! What a weekend. And the fest is only four days old. Onward and upward.

averner@globeandmail.com

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