8 ‘Black List’ titles head to Toronto Film Festival

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Franklin Leonard’s Black List -- an annual compilation of the hottest unproduced screenplays in Hollywood -- is getting a bump this year courtesy of the Toronto Film Festival, which opens next week. This year, eight movies that were eventually made from titles once on his list -- which has been in circulation since 2004 -- will bow at the festival, which is considered by many in the industry to be the beginning of the Oscar season.

Of those eight titles, five are scheduled for release this fall. The political drama ‘The Ides of March,’ from writer Beau Willamon, who also penned the stage play (titled ‘Farragut North’), will have its North American premiere at the festival, before opening in U.S. theaters on Oct. 7. (It made the Black List back in 2007.) The George Clooney-Ryan Gosling film debuted Wednesday at the Venice Film Festival to somewhat mixed reviews.

The Joseph Gordon-Levitt cancer dramedy ’50/50,’ previously titled ‘I’m With Cancer’ from screenwriter Will Reiser, will debut at Toronto before its general opening on Sept. 30 courtesy of Summit Entertainment. It was a favorite of the 2008 Black List, as was Alexander Payne’s ‘The Descendants,’ which will come to Toronto after debuting at the Telluride Film Festival on Saturday. Also a George Clooney-starrer, ‘The Descendants’ will open in November.

‘Butter,’ which the Weinstein Co. will open close to Halloween, was also a popular script among Hollywood insiders in 2008. The film starring Jennifer Garner and Olivia Wilde and centered in the competitive world of Midwestern butter carving competitions, will debut at Toronto, though it’s been rumored to be a surprise entry in the Telluride festival, which starts tomorrow in the Colorado town.


Julia Leigh’s ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ which already opened in Australia, was also a Black List fave in 2008. It has yet to be dated in the U.S. by indie distributor IFC. The film, starring Emily Browning as a college student drawn into the world of sex work, will have its North American debut at Toronto. Also joining the festival is ‘Restless’ from director Gus Van Sant. The script, about young love and mortality, from Jason Lew was featured on the 2009 list prior to Van Sant coming aboard. The film debuted in Cannes this spring and will open in September, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Of the eight titles, only two are seeking distribution. Coincidentally, both of those films deal with the issue of infidelity. One is from Toronto darling Sarah Polley, who is returning to the festival this year with her second directorial effort, ‘Take This Waltz,’ which stars Michelle Williams as a married woman tempted by another man. Also up for sale is ‘The Oranges,’ from director Jim Field Smith that tracks the familial upheaval that occurs between two families when the father (Hugh Laurie) of one falls for the daughter (Leighton Meester) of the other. It will debut in Toronto next week.

While Leonard has never purported that his list is a ‘best of’ compilation -- it’s more a ‘most popular’ of the screenplays that are in circulation among the script readers in the industry, he says -- the number of movies headed to Toronto serves as something of a quality endorsement of the scripts that top his list.


Films up for grabs at Toronto festival

Black List showcases the best overlooked screenplays

Telluride film lineup: ‘Descendants,’ ‘Albert Nobbs,’ ‘Shame’

-- Nicole Sperling