At Toronto Film Festival, Queen Elizabeth II’s Death Looms Large

It was supposed to be all about the movies.

But even here at the Toronto International Film Festival, an ocean away from the United Kingdom, the death of 96-year-old Queen Elizabeth II has loomed large. It has provided an opportunity for festival organizers, filmmakers and talent to reflect on the life and legacy of a monarch whose 70-year reign ranks as the longest in her country’s history. That’s partly due to Canada’s status as a member of the British Commonwealth, but it’s also because the festival is such an international A-list affair, one that attracts movie stars and directors who have often had personal encounters with the queen.

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Ben Kingsley, on hand at the festival to promote his work as the painter Salvador Dali in “Daliland,” said he had performed “The Taming of the Shrew” for the queen and her family while he was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and met her on other occasions, including for a “very intimate lunch at the palace.”

“She was a tremendous force of goodwill, kindness and wisdom — one that will leave an enormous gap in the world,” Kingsley said. “And I am confident that his majesty, Charles, will fill and close and ease that wound in my beloved country.”

Eddie Redmayne, the star of “The Good Nurse,” also seemed to be processing her loss.

“It’s incredibly sad,” he told Variety. “I thought she was an extraordinary woman and somebody who was emblematic of extraordinary resilience and duty. And those are two qualities that are really stunning and something to aspire to. I was in London when it happened and it feels like the country is in mourning.”

The queen’s death was announced on the same day that TIFF started its program, prompting Cameron Bailey, the festival’s director, to pay tribute to the monarch in his opening remarks. “As we gather to celebrate the power of film to move us and illuminate the world around us, I want to acknowledge the passing today of her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II,” he said. “Our thoughts go out to everyone here and around the world mourning her loss.”

“Empire of Light’s” Olivia Colman had one of the most unique experiences of any of the stars at Toronto this year when it came to the House of Windsor. After all, she portrayed Queen Elizabeth in the middle years of her reign for two seasons of Netflix’s royal sensation “The Crown.” It’s a role she will soon pass on to another legendary British thespian, Imelda Staunton.

“She made a promise as a young woman and she absolutely kept it with such dignity,” she said. “We’re all incredibly impressed by what she did.”

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