A host of major awards contenders will make their world premieres at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, including John Wells’ family drama “August: Osage County,” Jean-Marc Vallee’s period AIDS film “The Dallas Buyers Club” and Jason Reitman’s literary adaptation “Labor Day.”
The movies will be joined by a number of fall hopefuls making their North American debuts north of the border, including Ron Howard’s Formula 1 drama “Rush,” Stephen Frears’ adoption tale “Philomena” and Alfonso Cuaron science-fiction pic “Gravity.” Those movies will play the Venice film Festival or another global venue before coming to the Canadian confab. (Both North American and world premieres, it should be noted, can sometimes play a sneak screening at the Telluride Film Festival a week or so before Toronto.)
Among the other world premieres with a high interest value are Steve McQueen’s “Twelve Years a Slave,” the Brad Pitt-produced tale of a free Northern man taken into slavery; “Enough Said,” the Nicole Holofcener romantic dramedy that marks one of James Gandolfini’s last role; and “Prisoners,” Denis Villenueve’s revenge drama starring Hugh Jackman that serves as the director’s follow-up to his foreign-film sensation “Incendies.” Justin Chadwick’s “Mandela,” about the iconic Civil Rights leader, will also world-premiere.
The Canadian festival announced its selection of galas and special presentation on Tuesday morning; a second round of announcements is planned for next week.
The festival also announced Bill Condon’s “The Fifth Estate” as the opening night film and Daniel Schechter’s “Life of Crime” as its closing picture. “Estate” examines the life of and controversy around WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, with Benedict Cumberbatch as the polarizing figure. “Information is the most potent currency of our time, and we’ve found a film that charts just how volatile it can be,” Cameron Bailey, the festival’s artistic director, said in a statement. “Crime,” meanwhile, is based on Elmore Leonard’s novel “The Switch” and stars Jennifer Aniston and John Hawkes.
Tuesday’s slate also included premieres for a number of other titles of note, including Matthew Weiner’s slacker tale “You Are Here;" “Can A Song Save Your Life?,” “Once director John Carney’s romance co-starring Adam Levine; Kristen Wiig’s dramatic debut in “Hateship Loveship,” Liza Johnson’s adaptation of an Alice Munro work; and “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” Ned Benson’s two-film project that stars Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy and tells separately of a romance from a male and female perspective. The movies can be viewed together or apart, and in any order.
The slate will mean the usual cavalcade of stars at Toronto, with the festival showcasing movies featuring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts (“August”), Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner (“Dallas Buyers”) George Clooney and Sandra Bullock (“Gravity” and, for Clooney, “Osage County,” which he produced), Jude Law (whose British gangster pic “Dom Hemingway” is heading to the festival despite a release from Fox Searchlight the following April), Julia-Louis Dreyfus (“Enough Said”) and Scarlett Johansson (as an alien, in Jonathan Glazer’s “Under the Skin”).
The world premieres each come with one or two juicy story lines. “Osage County,” which Weinstein Co. will bring out Dec. 25, is Tracy Letts’ adaptation of his own Pulitzer-Prize winning play and could return Roberts to the thick of the awards race for the first time in more than a decade.
“Dallas Buyers” is the latest and perhaps most serious bid for Oscar credibility for McConaughey, who lost a significant amount of weight to play a real-life Texas hustler who in the 1980’s smuggled AIDS drugs from Mexico. The project had been in development for years with everyone from Brad Pitt to Ryan Gosling attached, before getting off the ground last fall. Focus Features has set a Dec. 6 release date.
And Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet star in “Labor Day,” Reitman’s adaptation of a Joyce Maynard novel. Reitman — a favored son in Toronto who has seen splashy unveilings of “Up in the Air” and “Juno” there —will mark his return to the festival after bypassing it with his 2011 homecoming drama “Young Adult.” Paramount brings out the new movie Dec. 25.
Meanwhile, with “Skin,” “Gravity” and Richard Ayoade’s’ “The Double,” an adaptation of an otherworldly Dostoyevsky work starring Jesse Eisenberg, the festival will have a sci-fi/surrealist bent that picks up where “Looper,” last year’s opening-night film, left off.
Toronto will also give an unusually large number of actors a platform to unveil their directorial efforts, including Jason Bateman for his spelling-bee comedy “Bad Words;” Ralph Fiennes for his Charles Dickens romance “The Invisible Woman;” Keanu Reeves for his multilingual martial-arts film “Man of Tai Chi;” and Mike Myers for his talent-manager documentary “Supermensch.” Joseph Gordon-Levitt will also bring his Sundance hit “Don Jon’s Addiction” to the festival.
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All told, about 65 galas and special presentations were announced on Tuesday, including a number of pictures that played the Sundance and Cannes film festivals. The 11-day gathering kicks off on Sept. 5.
With its place at the head of the awards calendar and an abundance of North American media in attendance, Toronto is an important launch pad for fall movies both commercially and on the Oscar front.
Last year “Argo” began its successful ride to the Dolby podium there after a sneak at Telluride, following a similar trajectory for “The King’s Speech in 2010. Among the other award-decorated movies that received a critical boost at Toronto in recent years were “The Silver Linings Playbook,” “Black Swan,” “Atonement” “Moneyball” and “Shame.”
Not on the 2013 list Tuesday were Nicole Kidman-toplined royals saga “Grace of Monaco,” Clooney’s WWII art-rescue pic “The Monuments Men,” ; Spike Lee’s revenge remake “Oldboy,” Martin Scorsese’s greed drama “The Wolf of Wall Street” and Ridley Scott’s legal epic “The Counselor,” though one or more could yet end up in future announcements.
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