William “Bill” Marshall, co-founder and chair emeritus of the Toronto International Film Festival, died on Sunday after suffering from cardiac arrest, his family confirmed in a press release. He was 77.
Marshall immigrated to Canada from Scotland in 1955. He was “a proud Canadian and Member of the Order of Canada, an honour he received for his many contributions to the arts,” his family wrote.
Marshall co-founded TIFF ― originally called the Festival of Festivals ― in 1976 along with Henk Van der Kolk and Dusty Cohl. In the festival’s first three years, Marshall also served as the organization’s director.
“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,” TIFF director and CEO Piers Handling said in a statement. “Without his tenacity and dedication, the Toronto International Film Festival would not be among the most influential public cultural festivals today.”
Throughout his career in the Canadian film industry, Marshall produced 13 feature films, and numerous documentaries and live theater productions. His family’s statement notes that Marshall played an important role in helping establish various film organizations in Canada, including the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television and The Toronto Film & Television Office.
Aside from his work in film, Marshall was heavily involved in Toronto’s political scene, serving as campaign manager and chief of staff for three Toronto mayors, his family said.
Former Toronto Mayor David Crombie sang Marshall’s praises to the London Free Press.
“He carried the charm of life with him wherever he went and never allowed mere means to limit grand ends ― particularly if a good time was to be had in the process,” Crombie said. “He lived the life he dreamed of as a boy in the hard part of Glasgow and the one he wanted to enjoy in the celebrated salons of Toronto.”
Crombie added, “He paid his way in the rare coin of talent, creativity and wit and those who knew him will always be cheerfully in his debt and will never forget him.”
In their statement, Marshall’s family said he was a man “in the business of making dreams become reality,” noting that he still had several projects in development at the time of his death.
“Now, as the house lights dim, friends and family will remember and honor Bill as a first-rate raconteur, famous for his honesty, keen mind, and wry humor,” the family said.