Mr. Will Wong on Working The Red Carpet

The Toronto International Film Festival is almost here, but for us who report on all things beautiful and TIFF, the season has already begun (yes, TIFF is a season). We’re mapping out the screenings, the events, what we will be wearing (hey, I’ve worn out many shoes), and how many energy bars we need to sustain us — those canapes are dangerous to the hips! I’ve met some interesting people who are behind-the-scenes from celebrity handlers to volunteers and all of them have great stories. Which gave me this idea to spotlight some of my favourite people who may not necessarily be on the red-carpet but just to the side…and trust me, those spots are just as coveted.
Will Wong (aka Mr. Will Wong) is a fixture on the entertainment circuit.. He’s pretty much invited to every red carpet event in the city. How does he do it? I just had to ask…
Photo Courtesy of Will Wong

As an entertainment correspondent you’ve been invited to cover many red carpets. How did you get started? 

I’ve always been starstruck. I attended my first TIFF back in 2003 and remember being in awe that you could sit in the audience and ask the Director a question after the movie. I eventually got super-crafty and found out which hotel all the stars did their press out of and would see tons of them coming in and out. It was like striking a gold mine. I’d be only inches away from the likes of Brad Pitt and George Clooney.

Over the years I’d compiled many awesome snaps of the stars, different from the standard red carpet TIFF photos you often see, and in 2009 I decided to create a blog which showcased my starspottings.  Why not let the world see the magic I got to experience?  It would be a waste to keep them stored only on my Facebook and Friendster accounts only.  I love writing too and consider myself a better writer than a speaker. That combined with my passion for film and music made blogging a seamless progression.  It is effortless for me because I am in my element and love sharing my passion with the world. The celeb selfies I’ve become a bit of a net celeb for, only are a part of the big picture – pardon the pun. I speak in the voice of the fan and genuinely am a supporter of music and film.

I took a chance reaching out to publicists who thankfully understand my vision and are supportive. After working super-hard and being consistent at it – seeing others come and go these past few years – establishing a sizable following, I found myself chatting with Channing Tatum, Baz Luhrmann,  Hugh Jackman, Bradley Cooper, Chloe Moretz, Daniel Radcliffe and several more about their latest films! Crazy, right?

The celebrities, we want to know how do you get those selfies with them? Do you have any tips for us that are too shy to ask?

I’ve never hidden the fact that what I do involves a degree of “stalkiness”. I however always am respectful of boundaries and am fortunate enough to have built a network of connections around the city in my many years of doing this and also a degree of skillfulness in researching celebrities’ whereabouts which help me land that coveted snap.

It is all in the approach though, really. It involves that right combination of desperation and harmless approachability which a celebrity will look at and simply not be able to resist.

Are there rules/guidelines you must follow on the red carpet?

I am a bit of an anomaly in that I understand things v. well on both sides of the barricade.  I come from fan beginnings and am not ashamed of this.  I’m sure some in media will never take me seriously and on the flipside I’m sure there are Fans who think I ride a high horse. I know the grueling pain of standing behind a barricade for hours, getting pushed, shoved and hit on the head by a clipboard from overzealous eBay autograph hounds and also know the great privilege of being granted face time with a celeb, while snacking on a tray of four-star hotel pastries in the Hospitality Suite. When I’m on the carpet I am working and in journalist mode. The beauty of calling my own shots is I choose when I am the fan and when I am media. I honestly could care less what others think about this as it feels right to me. It is how I have survived and continue to survive as a brand.

Photo Courtesy of Will WongHave you ever been seriously star struck? 

Nicole Kidman. GODDESS.

My moment with Lady Gaga after more than 14+ tries to get a photo with her.

That time Rihanna said “no” to a photo and then suddenly changed her mind. I almost lost it!

That time Adam Levine told me I was sweet.

That time Charlie Hunnam told me he knew exactly who I was and called me a “Celebrity”.

There are many, many more moments – high-highs and severe disappointments which make me cringe when I see certain celebrities again. Maybe there will be a memoir… you know you’d buy it!

How do you survive the red carpet? What’s your fuel of choice?

Coffee in the iced and piping hot incarnations. I eat so many hot dogs during TIFF! Mmmm sauerkraut.

There always is time for sweets no matter how busy I am TIFF.

What do you love about TIFF?

I live for TIFF. I love the spectacle, the thrill of the chase for celebrities and seeing who will emerge next a star. I love seeing first the movies that everyone raves about come Oscar Season. I love seeing friends: everyone from publicists, fellow celebchasers, cinemaddicts and my readers (Wongsters as I call them!) out and about. The energy is infectious!

What do you not love about TIFF?

Feeling unidentified male genitalia on my back, getting whacked on the head by said clipboards in the bustle for a celeb and seeing how catty some can become out of jealousy and lack of rest or hunger.

I also want so badly to get every single celeb in town but quite simply it is impossible and find myself having to make some tough choices who to invest time in. Like do you go for Jennifer Lawrence or Emma Watson, goddamnit!?!?

What’s a typical day like for you during TIFF?

I typically am out for 20+ hour durations the first few days of the Festival. It truly is a marathon and a battle of endurance.  Over the years I get a bit of help from some awesome sponsors who make it all that extra bit easy. In recent years I’ve been supplied with a car, a camera, a phone, some fashions and even a hotel room.  I couldn’t do it without them.

Come the Wednesday of the Festival, I usually get that much-needed gasp of air. I often find myself typing jibberish before dozing off, waking-up with my head on my keyboard, my confused Shih Tzu Billy wondering why I’m not in bed yet!

Photo Courtesy of Will WongAny films you’re already eyeing?

Whiplash and Foxcatcher are tops on my TIFF Wishlist. Super-excited about Tom Hardy‘s first visit to the city for The Drop.   Although she has been nasty to be every time I’ve met her, I am excited about Reese Witherspoon in Wild too.

Any fun TIFF Stories that you can share with us?

Every year I make new friends who are passionate about  celebrities and films like me and it is always exciting to meet new friends.

It’s always humbling to get asked for autographs and pictures by readers out and about!

 

What’s the first thing  you want to do once TIFF is all over?

I usually give Billy some good quality time and relax at Woodbine at the end of it as a reward.

So, if our readers want to follow you?

Instagram: @mrwillwong

Twitter: @mrwillw

Blog: mrwillwong.com

Facebook: facebook.com/mrwillwongblog

 

Thanks so much for this amazing interview Will! I’ll see you out on the TIFF circuit, with my vitaminwater in hand!

 

 

 

 

Sonya is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of AZNmodern.com. She is also a well-established contributing lifestyle writer to other sites and magazines sharing her passion for arts & culture, fashion, beauty, travel and food. Sonya is based in Toronto, Canada. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @theculturepearl

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