Bullock, Aniston, Law, Jackman among stars headed to festival
TORONTO — Jennifer Aniston, Kate Winslet, Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Jude Law and Hugh Jackman are among the A-listers heading to next month’s Toronto International Film Festival, a glitzy parade organizers touted Tuesday as ground zero for those seeking awards season glory.
Festival organizers say this year’s star-packed guest list also includes Sandra Bullock, Marion Cotillard, Daniel Radcliffe, Reese Witherspoon and Kristen Wiig.
The roster emerged as the final films were announced for the 11-day movie marathon, bringing the final count to 288 features and 78 shorts bound for the fest.
“I think that unquestionably Toronto is now positioned as one of the key — if not the key — festivals for awards-season launch, so of course many of the stars will come to the festival as well as the major directors,” festival director Piers Handling said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters.
“They’ve looked at the track record of Toronto over the last 15, 20 years, which is very impressive. Many films go on to multiple nominations and we’ve had a track record of picking best picture as well as many of the best actors over the years.”
Toronto has done particularly well in predicting awards success for foreign-language films, Handling added, noting that over the last 25 years, 24 of the Oscar winners in that category screened at TIFF.
Newly announced films for this instalment include Amir Bar-Lev’s “12.12.12,” which chronicles the post-Sandy benefit concert that featured the likes of Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, the Who and Paul McCartney.
Following the screening, concert co-organizer Harvey Weinstein will host a live discussion.
Filmmaker Ron Howard, meanwhile, will appear at a public chat to support his documentary Made in America, which looks at Jay-Z’s Philadelphia music bash. Howard will also be seen at the fest with his Formula One thriller Rush.
Homegrown titles include Our Man In Tehran, a documentary that chronicles the story behind the Iran hostage rescue operation that inspired Argo but is better known here as “the Canadian Caper.”
Co-director and producer Larry Weinstein says it reveals how Canada’s former ambassador to Iran, Ken Taylor, personally sheltered six fugitive U.S. diplomats during the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979.
It also dispels many elements in Ben Affleck’s Hollywood version, which emphasized the involvement of CIA agent Tony Mendez while downplaying Canada’s role.
“There’s just some embellishment and that’s natural within a Hollywood film,” Weinstein said of the Oscar-winning popcorn thriller.
“It’s very much the point of view of this man, Tony Mendez, and from that point of view it’s pretty accurate, although there is some embellishment and there are a couple of scenes that were made up. But I think our film being a documentary we just wanted to not do that. Ours is much more the Canadian point of view and addresses some of the things that are omitted.”
The film is co-directed and produced by former Toronto Blue Jays baseball player Drew Taylor, who makes his directorial debut with the project. The screening will include a conversation with Ken Taylor.
Other live events include the return of Jason Reitman’s Live Read — a program where classic scripts are read for the first time by contemporary actors in front of an audience, with Reitman narrating stage direction.
Last year, Reitman directed Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks and Adam Driver at a live table read of American Beauty.
On-stage conversations will take place with Bollywood star Irrfan Khan, best known to English-speaking audiences for Slumdog Millionaire and Life of Pi, and director Spike Jonze, who will outline his diverse career from music videos to feature films and preview his new project Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson.
The Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 5 to 15 and opens with the WikiLeaks drama The Fifth Estate.
TIFF is also partnering with IMAX to present four films on the extra-big screen. They include Bullock’s sci-fi tale “Gravity” and Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut “Man of Tai Chi,” which both also screen in non-IMAX format, as well as the hybrid documentary “Metallica Through the Never” and a 3D version of the original “The Wizard of Oz.”
The final TIFF lineup does include some notable omissions.
Joel and Ethan Coen’s “Inside Llewyn Davis,” Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska,” and “All is Lost” starring Robert Redford are skipping Toronto, despite being festival sensations elsewhere.
“There’s a lot of good work to go around these days. I wouldn’t want to see the same films turn up at every single festival,” artistic director Cameron Bailey said in the same conference call.
“If you look at what we have, (and the festivals at) Cannes, Venice, New York, Telluride, the lineups are actually quite distinct which is, I think, a good thing. It’s a sign of health in the film industry.”