Walking the Red Carpet with Dina Pugliese
Dina Pugliese is co-host of Toronto’s number one morning show, Breakfast Television. For more than a decade, Dina has been reporting from the red carpets and rubbing shoulders with A-list celebrities at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). We asked this pro to give On the Go readers her extensive insight into covering one of North America’s most glamorous film festivals.
What is the most surprising or shocking thing that you have ever seen or heard on the red carpet?
No one makes an entrance like Emma Thompson. That woman has moxy, baby! She made a red carpet menace of herself at the The Love Punch premiere, with Pierce Brosnan during last year’s TIFF (causing our own VIP carpet correspondents Colin and Justin to tumble over the velvet rope).
She was jokingly swigging back booze, taking off her shoes and twirling around delighting everyone lucky enough to witness her offbeat antics. She is pure joy to watch on and off the screen. This woman lives and breathes fun. A-listers take note: that’s how TIFF is done!
What, if any, has been your most embarrassing TIFF moment?
The most embarrassing TIFF moment is hands down my first “encounter” with my first love (only he didn’t know it) Brad. Pitt. The year, TIFF 2007. The film, The Assassination of Jesse James. The mission, get one question in during a press conference (stuffed like sardines with media outlets from around the world, many of which were broadcasting the event in its entirety — live) and come out alive. Well I didn’t.
I barely escaped with any dignity intact. After many, many rounds of questions, my arm stayed up turning numb and losing blood flow; question, next question — seemed like forever! Finally, last question, “Dina,” the moderator called out. It was finally my turn and I had nothing left. Zip. Nada. Fresh out.
Last picked. And I had nothing left to ask! I stand. Blood draining from my face, as the man of my adolescent dreams locks eyes with me… I then realize this is my do or die. And then, I babble. I babble and I babble like the babbling brooks he fished in A River Runs Through It.
A monologue ensues as I buy time to ask something filmrelated that hasn’t already been asked. So I tell him how I loved him since seeing him in the b-movie Cutting Class, years ago (pre-Thelma and Louise era and post wearing his chicken suit for a fast food chain era).
And then it went downhill from there, lol! All of it on tape and even worse, streaming out to the world live for all to witness in front of every single one of my peers and goodness knows who else. I choked. Full on TIFF disaster. Dread, pure dread flooded over me and flushed my face — followed by shame.
So what did I do? Followed him to the red carpet premiere that night and made the whole debacle into a story for Breakfast Television the next day. In case you’re wondering, I did manage to redeem myself for the red carpet premiere that night.
I collected myself and pulled off a decent face to face interview without fainting or babbling. I also happened to be the only reporter who managed to snag a clip from Angelina! She stopped to give him praise as she rushed by others to give him the shine. But to this day, the story of the shame was much better than the glory of the redemption.
What would you never ask on the red carpet?
I tend to stay away from scandalous or private topics. I love that the stars come to support their art, their industry and feel it shouldn’t be a place for gossip.
How do you get ready to cover the red carpet?
People think the TIFF beat is glamorous. Truth is … it’s a ton of “hurry up” and “wait” … and sleep deprivation. The TIFF survival trick? Comfy flats. And sneak almonds into your pockets to sustain energy for the 18-hour days.
Stamina is key; running from screenings to junkets to parties to carpets (that lock down with you in place hours before anyone is set to get out of their town car) and re-applying your lipstick in a cab, if you remember en route to the next assignment.
The glam team plays a key role. Hiding exhausted circles under your eyes and always applying waterproof, sweatproof make-up, and topping it off with helmet sprayed hair to maintain a semifresh look in the sweltering heat or frigid cold. TIFF tends to serve up a spectrum of seasons within a day.
I used to keep a bunch of dresses in the trunk of my car in the underground parking garage at the old Four Seasons. That was my change room or the nearest public bathroom. See what I mean about glamourous?
Who is your favourite Canadian actor?
So hard to choose … there are so many fine Canadian actors, but Rachel McAdams wins for being as beautiful as she is talented and kind to all she meets.
What film are you most excited to see this year?
Mr. Iron Man himself — Robert Downey Jr., for his flick The Judge. Love me a good suspense thriller with a stellar cast and this one promises to deliver. Robert Downey Jr. plays Hank Palmer, a big city lawyer who returns to his childhood home where his father, the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Billy Bob Thornton, Robert Duvall, Vincent D’Onofrio star.
What premiere/after party are you most looking forward to?
Soho House is the best place to be every single night of TIFF. Night after night it’s chock full of A-listers! It’s almost too much to take in and process. Ryan Gosling in one corner chatting up George Clooney Kiera Knightley on the couch sipping cocktails and Emily Blunt munching on a caprese salad over to your right. It’s all about acting calm and carrying on like they’re not there. It’s priceless.
And the food happens to fill the hunger pangs like no other, it’s bountiful and delicious. Being a fly on the wall is the most amazing thing. Seeing these sought after stars let their hair down and interact normally with one another is like seeing a real life unicorn; their guards are completely down. Those moments are the best.
Happy TIFF’ing everyone!
This September, Breakfast Television will be celebrating its 25th anniversary on City. Catch Dina’s TIFF coverage each weekday morning during the festival on Breakfast Television and CityNews at 5, 6 and 11 p.m. ET on City. Stay up-to-date on all of Dina’s celebrity interviews during TIFF by following her on Twitter: @DinaPugliese.