This year, new artistic director Chris Fujiwara made up for that in style, by the simple act of picking up the phone to Elliott Gould.
With the Oscar-nominated star of Mash, The Long Goodbye and the Oceans series appearing in a film in the festival (the indie drama Fred, about an ageing couple struggling to cope), Fujiwara asked Gould to come to Scotland and chair the best international feature jury.
"Very interesting choices, very reflective," says Gould of the films he has seen. These include the Portuguese drama Tabu, the Argentine documentary Papirosen, and The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus, an American documentary about the multi-limbed football pundit.
The winners of all the competitions, including the prestigious Michael Powell Award for best British feature, will be announced on Saturday.
Gould, 73, has had a busy time of it in Edinburgh, between seeing the 14 films up for the international prize and doing an "audience with" event.
He has still found time, though, to make one very important visit – to his family's former nanny, Babs, who is now in her nineties and living in the Borders.
Gould employed Babs when he was married to Barbra Streisand and the Scottish nanny looked after their son for seven years. When he came to live in London in 1978 she returned to look after his second son and daughter. "Babs knows my whole family."
Gould first visited Edinburgh after finishing A Bridge Too Far with Sean Connery, and it was Babs who showed him around the city. She is not Gould's only family connection to Scotland – his daughter Molly visited Scotland in her first year at university and fell in love with a fellow student whom she went on to marry.
"I love it here, I really do," says Gould. "I very much love the UK, and this is still considered UK, isn't it? I'm not into politics. But I don't know another place like this."
Gould is often invited to film festivals but has said yes to only a few, including Santa Barbara and now Edinburgh, largely because he puts so much effort into it.
"It's serious and it's a responsibility. It's hard work. I'm not here to party," says the man who played the ultimate party animal Trapper John in Mash.
He has certainly put in the hours. After we talk he was going off to his last screening, then meeting three youngsters who were serving on the student critics jury, then going on to attend the judging dinner.
Gould's upcoming film, Ruby Sparks, a new comedy drama by the team who made Little Miss Sunshine, has just had its film festival premiere in Los Angeles, to sunny reviews. It is released in the UK in October.
Tough schedule aside, would he come back to Edinburgh's event? "Sure, absolutely," he says. Fujiwara should place the call now.