AFI Fest will premiere ‘Foxcatcher’; Agnes Varda is guest director

With film festivals in Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York all taking place this month, it seems nearly every movie with awards season hopes has already had — or has at least booked — its world premiere. But Hollywood’s own AFI Fest was able to land a highly anticipated, still-under-wraps title to help kick off its November event: “Foxcatcher,” director Bennett Miller’s wrestling drama.

The film, which stars Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo, will play on Nov. 8, the second day of the eight-day festival.

“Saving Mr. Banks,” featuring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, will be the opening night gala on Nov. 7, following its debut at the London Film Festival a month before. The Joel and Ethan Coen folk music drama “Inside Llewyn Davis,” which debuted at Cannes in May, will close the gathering on Nov. 14.


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AFI organizers also said Wednesday that 85-year-old French New Waveauteur Agnès Varda, who has directed over 30 films including “Cleo From 5 to 7” and “The Beaches of Agnes,” will serve as the festival’s guest artistic director.

“Foxcatcher,” Miller’s follow-up to his 2011 hit “Moneyball,” is based on real events and centers on Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Tatum), who has never been able to live up to the athletic prowess of his brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo). When millionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell), heir to the Du Pont chemical fortune, takes Mark under his wing, the athlete is hopeful he’ll be able to change his luck. Instead, Du Pont sucks him into a downward spiral that leads to a tragic outcome.

The picture is based on Mark Schultz’s autobiography, which described Du Pont as a mentally unstable man who used his money to build a wrestling training facility on his Pennsylvania estate. The film will be released by Sony Pictures Classics on Dec. 20, the same day “Saving Mr. Banks” hits theaters.

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The Disney tale, meanwhile, is about the lengths the Mouse House creator went to so he could get “Mary Poppins” on the big screen. Emma Thompson stars as P.L. Travers, the “Poppins” author who had a contentious relationship with Disney. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the classic film about the English nanny — which premiered at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in 1964 — AFI Fest will hold a special screening of “Mary Poppins” during its opening weekend.

Held in the heart of Hollywood, AFI Fest attracted roughly 75,000 filmgoers last year. The event, now in its 27th year, has long had a reputation for bringing festival circuit favorites to Angelenos. In 2012, Sacha Gervasi’s “Hitchcock” was the opening night film, and the only one at AFI Fest celebrating its world premiere.

For the fifth year, AFI Fest will offer free tickets to the event. AFI members will be able to secure their tickets 48 hours before the general public, who can snatch their own beginning Oct. 30 at