September 30, 2013 12:00 PM

Sandra Bullock & Alfonso Cuarén


With out-of-this-world buzz surrounding their thriller, the star and director didn’t let it go to their heads. “It’s better than the alternative!” joked Cuarén as the pair posed for PEOPLE. During the grueling film shoot, Bullock, who plays a stranded astronaut, spent most of her days filming in an isolated booth. “I missed being with my son. I missed being with people,” she said. “It made me grateful.”

At the Shangri-La Hotel

Chris Hemsworth


The actor shed his Thor persona (along with 30 lbs. of muscle) to portray Formula One racecar driver James Hunt. Taking a break during his first visit to the festival, “I was just excited to be invited!” he said. His brothers Liam and Luke cheered him on at the premiere. “The positive response is fantastic,” Chris said. “It’s something to be proud of.”

At the Park Hyatt Hotel

Julia Louis-Dreyfus


Louis-Dreyfus toured the historic hotel’s 1950s-era projection room before flying back to the set of her HBO series Veep. The Emmy nominee, in Toronto for the premiere of her romantic comedy, noted it was bitter-sweet to be there without her brawny, beloved costar, the late James Gandolfini. “I treasure the opportunity I had to work with him,” she said.

At the Fairmont Royal York Hotel

Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson & Juliette Lewis


They star as squabbling sisters in the dark comedy, adapted from a Tony-winning play. And it didn’t take long for the trio to start feeling like real siblings. “We’d work, go home and shower, then go to Meryl’s,” said Roberts. (Meryl Streep plays their mom.) Added Nicholson: “We felt like sisters pretty early on. Then we started to look like sisters, and it started getting really weird.”

At their premiere party

Idris Elba & Naomie Harris


They received a standing ovation for their performances as South African leader Nelson Mandela and his wife, Winnie, then mingled with admirers at the afterparty. “It feels like home,” Elba said of Toronto. Harris added, “I think it’s the warmth of the people. Wherever we go, there’s been love.”

At Michael’s on Simcoe

Hugh Jackman & Jake Gyllenhaal


Following an after-noon of interviews, the costars relaxed at the bar. “It’s fun to be around Hugh,” said Gyllenhaal, who plays a detective searching for two missing girls. “His energy is infectious.” Jackman turned serious when he discussed his role as a dad struggling to find his child. “It made me hug my kids a little tighter and watch them closer,” he said.

At the Shangri-La Hotel

Scarlett Johansson


At the film fest for the first time since her breakout role in Lost in Translation in 2003, the newly engaged Johansson was thrilled to be back. “It feels like a milestone to be here,” said the actress. “It’s nice to look back and reflect on the work that I’ve done.” In the last 10 years, she’s become “more comfortable with myself. I’m happy with the person I’ve become.”

At the Templar Hotel

Matthew McConaughey


McConaughey won raves for his funny, poignant portrayal of AIDS patient Ron Woodroof, a part the actor famously lost 47 lbs. to play. “It was honestly a wonderful, wooly, wild adventure,” McConaughey said. “It didn’t feel like suffering. It was like riding a bull for six months.” Still, now that it’s over, it feels good to grab a beer.

At the Park Hyatt Hotel

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