Toronto International Film Festival co-founder, producer, political adviser and Canadian film “pioneer” Bill Marshall has died at the age of 77.
His family said in a statement they were “heartbroken” to share the news that Marshall, a “visionary in the Canadian film industry,” died of cardiac arrest in a Toronto hospital early Sunday morning.
“In a very real way Bill was in the business of making dreams become reality and he continued doing so to the very end with several new projects in development,” his family said, adding Marshall had produced 13 feature films and hundreds of documentaries in his lifetime.
“Now, as the house lights dim, friends and family will remember and honour Bill as a first rate raconteur, famous for his honesty, keen mind and wry humour.”
Marshall co-founded TIFF, originally called the “Festival of Festivals,” with friends Murray “Dusty” Cohl and Henk Van der Kolk in 1976.
He immigrated to Canada from Scotland in 1955 and was a “proud Canadian,” his family said, later becoming a recipient of the Order of Canada in 2002 for his “many contributions to the arts.”
“As much as Bill loved and cherished the arts, he also played a significant role in shaping the political landscape of Toronto,” his family said, adding Marshall served as campaign manager and chief of staff to three Toronto mayors.
“Bill was a trusted advisor to many senior politicians in Canada and the United States and his legacy continued with his recent support of current Toronto Mayor, John Tory.”
Tory released a statement Sunday and described Marshall as “an artist, a dedicated Torontonian by choice, a TIFF founder and most of all a friend.”
“He always thought big and we were the winners thanks to his creativity and determination,” he said.
“More so than any of that he was wise and just plain fun to be with. He will be sadly missed and my heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Sari and the Marshall family.”
Marshall is also known for producing the 1977 Canadian film Outrageous! and several live theatre productions including the Toronto version of the musical Hair.
He also helped establish the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, the Toronto Film and Television Office and was the former president of the Canadian Association of Motion Picture Producers.
Piers Handling, director and CEO of TIFF, said in a statement he was “deeply saddened” by the loss of Marshall.
“He was a pioneer in the Canadian film industry and his vision of creating a public festival that would bring the world to Toronto through the transformative power of cinema stands today as one of his most significant legacies,” he said.
Marshall’s family said funeral details have not yet been finalized but will be announced at a later date. He leaves behind his wife Sari Ruda and children Lee, Stephen and Shelagh, as well as six grandchildren.