TIFF co-founder Bill Marshall dead at 77

Bill Marshall, one of the founders of the Toronto International Film Festival, has died.

Marshall died of cardiac arrest in a Toronto hospital early this morning according to a statement from his family. He was 77 years old.

Marshall immigrated to Canada from Scotland in 1955. In 1976, he helped co-found the Festival of Festivals, a film event that would eventually grow into the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), one of the most important film festivals in the world.

In a statement, TIFF Director Piers Handling said the organization is “deeply saddened” by Marshall’s passing.

“Without his tenacity and dedication, the Toronto International Film Festival would not be among the most influential public cultural festivals today,” Handling said. “We were so fortunate to have Bill serve as one of our greatest champions for forty-one years.

“Our thoughts are with his wife Sari Ruda, his children Lee, Stephen and Shelagh, his six grandchildren and their family and friends.”

In addition to having helped found TIFF, Marshall also produced numerous feature films and documentaries. He also helped shape a number of industry organizations, including the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, The Toronto Film and Television Office, and was past president of the Canadian Association of Motion Picture Producers.

Marshall was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2002 for his contributions to the arts.

In addition to having made a mark on the arts in Canada, Marshall also served as a campaign manager and chief of staff for three Toronto mayors.

According to his family, Marshall “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.”

In their statement, the family said they were “heartbroken” by Marshall’s passing.

In a statement Sunday, Mayor John Tory also paid tribute to Marshall, calling him “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,” Tory 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’s family said funeral plans have yet to be finalized.