Jennifer Connelly was in tears at a Toronto film festival news conference for the film Creation after Astral Media president John Riley made unkind comments at the film’s official after-party on Thursday night. Connelly and her husband, Paul Bettany, left after making a brief appearance at the party, and in response, Riley held up a photo of Connelly in front of party guests before tearing it in half, saying, “This is my former favourite actress.” At a press conference the following day, Connelly was emotional as she explained her absence, saying, “I had to leave early because yesterday was the first anniversary of my father’s death. And I’m very sorry. I would have loved to have stayed longer but was not able to. So please accept my apology.”
Bettany said it was his idea to leave the Astral party early. “We really enjoyed ourselves as much as one can on a day like that,” he said. “It was also my decision. I thought it was enough smiling for her. She’s been up smiling for a long time that day, and the film had started an hour late. And it was 11 o’clock and we turned up to do the press (on the red carpet) and she’d had no time to think about herself and what that day (meant). Anniversaries are big things and first anniversaries are huge, so you need to have time to think about those things. And then the day had run away with us and robbed her of it, and I wanted her to get a little bit of that back. And so I said, ‘I don’t think we should stay at the party. I think we should get home, and let you be on your own. And take your heels off.’ And we were advised that was absolutely fine as long as we came to do the press line and turn up at the party.
“I think she’s devastated that she might have caused any offense. That’s a big thing for her to say (publicly). She’s an intensely private person. She would never sort of reveal the meaning of it (her absence), except she thought she had caused offense at TIFF and to the host of the party.”
Riley later said in a statement to Sun Media that his “remarks and actions were completely in jest and were an attempt to bring humour to an awkward situation, where our guests were anticipating” meeting Connelly and Bettany. “I was in no way serious when I made the comments, and the ripping of the picture was for effect. I sincerely regret if Ms. Connelly was saddened by my actions as I certainly didn’t wish to detract from the premiere of her film at the festival. Clearly, I was unaware of Ms. Connelly’s personal situation and, having lost my own father four months ago, I have great empathy for how difficult an anniversary such as this can be. I continue to be a tremendous fan of hers and hope that she will take my words and actions in the light-hearted spirit in which they were intended and not give this matter another minute of consideration.”