Big name features debut

Robert Redford’s examination of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Paul Giamatti’s portrayal of a Canadian literary icon in Barney’s Version, and Woody Allen’s comic take on restless Londoners are among the star-studded offerings bound for the Toronto International Film Festival this fall.

Paul Giamatti and Rachelle Lefevre star in ‘Barney’s Version’.

Paul Giamatti and Rachelle Lefevre star in ‘Barney’s Version’.

TORONTO — Robert Redford’s examination of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Paul Giamatti’s portrayal of a Canadian literary icon in Barney’s Version, and Woody Allen’s comic take on restless Londoners are among the star-studded offerings bound for the Toronto International Film Festival this fall.

Organizers revealed a taste of some of the big-name features, touting high-profile projects featuring the likes of Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Ben Affleck, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Ewan McGregor, and Ryan Reynolds.

Co-director Cameron Bailey said Tuesday that it was too early to confirm which Hollywood heavyweights would appear in person. The festival runs Sept. 9 through Sept. 19 and marks its 35th anniversary this year.

He said the complete list of films had yet to be finalized, but that so far he’s noted recurring themes.

“Issues of migration we found in many, many films — a lot of filmmakers are dealing with that,” Bailey said following a morning press conference.

“(There are) a lot of family stories, particularly from the American filmmakers. I think we’re seeing people really explore tough family issues. David Schwimmer’s film Trust is one that you’re going to want to see, it’s a very challenging film of what can happen inside a family.”

Bailey noted the economic downturn has made it harder to finance films in some parts of the world.

“The economy has given us fewer films in some cases from some countries as their economies shrink, and then also, maybe smaller budget films in some cases,” he said, adding that programmers decided to reduce the number of films for this year’s fest to make it more “manageable.”

Big films confirmed include Redford’s The Conspirator, about a woman accused of aiding her son in the assassination of Lincoln. It stars James McAvoy and Robin Wright. Also slated is Allen’s ensemble comedy, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, starring Anthony Hopkins, Josh Brolin and Naomi Watts.

Canadian features include the much-anticipated adaptation of Mordecai Richler’s bestseller, Barney’s Version. The Canada/Italy production stars Paul Giamatti as the protagonist Barney Panofsky and Hoffman as Barney’s foul-mouthed father, Izzy.

Mordecai’s book traces an aging Panofsky as he attempts to write his own memoir, and producer Robert Lantos says he spent 12 years struggling with a way to translate the story for the big screen.

“I did not want to make a film full of narration, I didn’t want to make a film about somebody who is sitting in front of a typewriter,” says Lantos, whose other projects have included Eastern Promises, Men With Brooms and The Sweet Hereafter.

“And all of the plots and subplots of this book didn’t fit into a movie so the challenge was to find the heart of the book, to isolate it, to use that as the body of the film and then hang the other pieces that can fit in two hours like the clothes on a person.”

The movie makes its North American debut at the Toronto fest, but Lantos would not say where the film is expected to make its world premiere.

The Venice International Film Festival is slated to run Sept. 1 to 11, which Lantos admitted would be a natural platform for the film.

“It’s a quintessential Canadian novel but the theme is universal and the book was a bestseller in many countries in the world,” he notes.

“It was a hugely popular book in Italy where it has sort of became part of the culture, perhaps more popular there than here. I think it sold more books there than here. And we shot some of the film in Rome and so this film does have two homes.”

Other films with Canadian roots bound for TIFF include The Bang Bang Club, a Canada/South Africa production starring Ryan Phillippe. It’s about four photojournalists during the final bloody days of white rule in South Africa.

Casino Jack, partially filmed in Canada, stars Kevin Spacey as a former U.S. lobbyist whose bribery schemes and fraudulent dealings with Indian casinos landed him in prison.

In all, organizers announced 25 world premieres, 15 galas and 35 special presentations headed to the auspicious fest, considered the launching pad for awards season. They include:

— Stone, with Robert De Niro and Edward Norton as a corrections official and inmate whose lives become dangerously intertwined,

— Beginners, starring Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer, about a man forced to examine his relationships when his 71-year-old father comes out of the closet,

— Never Let Me Go, featuring Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan about schoolmates torn apart upon leaving their idyllic boarding school

— The British movie The Trip, starring comic Coogan and Rob Brydon, directed by Michael Winterbottom,

— Trust, starring Clive Owen and Catherine Keener and directed by former Friends star Schwimmer, about a family rocked by their daughter’s new online friend.

— France’s “Little White Lies,” with Cotillard, about a group of friends forced to own up to the lies they’ve been telling each other

— “Rabbit Hole,” with Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as a couple devastated by the loss of their son

— “Buried,” featuring Reynolds as a man who wakes up buried underground with only a cellphone and a lighter to save himself from suffocation

— “The Town,” directed by Ben Affleck about a crew of ruthless bank robbers

— “Blue Valentine” stars Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as a couple trying to save their failing marriage