Ridley Scott, Jay Roach and Michael Moore are among the big-name filmmakers who will have world-premiere movies at the Toronto International Film Festival next month, organizers said Tuesday.
Scott's science-fiction tale "The Martian," Roach's fact-based dramatization about Dalton Trumbo titled "Trumbo" and Moore's "Where to Invade Next" will make Toronto their first stop.
Moore's film is a stealth project that had not been reported on previously; according to a festival release, the movie has him "tell[ing] the Pentagon to 'stand down' [as] he will do the invading for America from now on." The movie was "discretely shot in several countries and under the radar of the global media," the statement added. The provocateur's last movie was the documentary "Capitalism: A Love Story," which played Toronto in 2009.
Toronto also announced its opening night selection: Jean-Marc Vallee's "Demolition," in which Jake Gyllenhaal plays a Wall Streeter coming undone. Naomi Watts co-stars as a single mother who becomes involved in a complicated relationship with Gyllenhaal's character.
Gay and transgender rights will also be on the docket in Toronto: Roland Emmerich's "Stonewall," about the riots that helped launch a movement; "The Danish Girl," Tom Hooper's look at the transgender artist Lili Elbe starring Eddie Redmayne; and "Freeheld," about a landmark domestic-partner case, will all play Toronto. Jon Robin Baitz wrote the script for "Stonewall" and Ellen Page and Julianne Moore star in "Freeheld," both of which are world premieres.
Other high-profile films headed to Toronto include Tom McCarthy's church-scandal movie "Spotlight;" Charlie Kaufman's feature animation debut "Anomalisa"; Cary Fukunaga's child-soldier picture "Beasts of No Nation;" and Scott Cooper's Whitey Bulger movie "Black Mass." All will play Toronto after showing at the Telluride Film Festival, according to the premiere designations given them by TIFF.
Like the world premieres, several of those movies nonetheless come with elements of intrigue: "Beasts" is Netflix's first major narrative awards contender, while "Anomalisa" is a stop-motion movie involving puppets that Kaufman funded via Kickstarter.
Last year Toronto organizers essentially forced studios to choose between Telluride and the Canadian confab when they said they wouldn't give any movie that played Toronto a high-profile slot in the opening Thursday-Sunday period. Organizers softened the stance — somewhat — for this year, saying that a movie that played Telluride could in fact play in the first four days, but not at one of its flagship venues. The announcement Tuesday reflects the choices made by filmmakers and distributors between the larger and more star-heavy Toronto and the shorter and more intimate Telluride.
Festival director Cameron Bailey said at a news conference Tuesday morning that the tweaked policy was "a plan that's going to work for [distributors] to give them maximum flexibility … while also retaining the excitement of the first half of the festival."
Toronto, which this year kicks off Sept. 10, is known as a key launchpad for awards and Oscars. Last year both lead acting Oscar winners saw their movies world-premiere at the festival: Moore got her best actress push started with the global bow of "Still Alice" in Toronto, while Redmayne's "The Theory of Everything" played first there as well. But 2014 did break a seven-year streak of the eventual Oscar best-picture winner screening in Toronto when "Birdman" bypassed the festival in favor of the closing night of the New York Film Festival as its official U.S. premiere.
Toronto will also see the world premieres of a number of movies directed by well-known actors, including Julie Delpy's French-language picture "Lolo" and Jason Bateman's "The Family Fang," a sibling dramedy that marks his directorial follow-up to past Toronto premiere "Bad Words."
Meanwhile, "Martian," starring Matt Damon and due out Oct. 2, is one of the big commercial hopes of the season, and its placement in Toronto by Fox will stir memories of another space survival picture, "Gravity," which played the festival in 2013 on its way to blockbusterdom and seven Oscars.
That "Gravity" vibe will be back in another way: Jonas Cuaron, who co-wrote the movie with father Alfonso, will bring his Mexican border drama "Desierto" to Toronto, where it will make its world premiere.
Other high-voltage 2015 Toronto movies, with varying degrees of awards hopes and distribution strategies, include Stephen Frears' Lance Armstrong picture "The Program," with Ben Foster as the disgraced cyclist; Rebecca Miller's romantic dramedy "Maggie's Plan;" and Brian Helgeland's "Legend," in which Tom Hardy plays both of the infamous gangster Kray brothers.
Further program announcements are expected in the weeks ahead.