The Toronto International Film Festival will effectively begin a day earlier this year – throwing some high Hollywood heat on an opening night traditionally set aside for a lower-profile Canadian film gala.
TIFF has booked Looper as the Sept. 6 opening gala, a time-travel thriller from Rian Johnson (The Brothers Bloom) starring Bruce Willis and The Dark Knight Rises’ Joseph Gordon Levitt. In it, Levitt plays a hitman whose victims are sent to him from the future.
The movie was part of a major line-up announcement yesterday of scores of worldwide films, featuring the likes of Ben Affleck, Robert Redford, Tom Hanks, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Kevin Bacon, Jude Law, Lindsay Lohan, Robert DeNiro, Penelope Cruz, Bill Murray, Keira Knightley and the cast of Monty Python (for the world premiere of an animated autobiography, ostensibly “by” the late Graham Chapman).
Most of the announced A-listers are expected to attend the festival.
Festival co-director Cameron Bailey said the Canadian-opener tradition had adverse effects on the festival, and on the Canadian films it was supposed to champion.
“I wanted to send a message to our audience and the industry and the media that the festival starts on Thursday night,” Bailey said. “I think what a lot of people outside of Toronto had begun to think was that the first night was for the Canadians, a local event only, and that the rest of the festival started Friday.
“I wanted to send a strong signal that we want to open this festival with a bang. We’ll always have a pride of place for Canadian films. We have Canadian galas and special presentations to announce in early August.
“I wanted to go big, to go fun, with an entertaining but thinking-person’s action film, not just a stuff-blowing-up film.”
Bailey said Canadian films didn’t benefit from the traditional opening gala spot, because of the absence of film buyers and distributors. He said a notable recent Canadian success, Barney’s Version, might not have found buyers as an opening night film, “because they wouldn’t have arrived yet.”
Among notable TIFF films announced yesterday:
Stars-turned-directors Robert Redford, Billy Bob Thornton and Ben Affleck all have galas in which they also star. Affleck’s world premiere Argo is about the CIA’s part in the “Canadian Caper” during the Iran Hostage crisis, while in The Company You Keep, Redford plays a civil rights lawyer whose past as a wanted radical fugitive is blown by a reporter (Shia LaBeouf). And Thornton’s world premiere Jayne Mansfield’s Car is a serio-comic portrait of fathers and sons in the ‘60s in the South, co-starring Robert Duvall and Kevin Bacon.
In their first billing as brother-and-sister, The Matrix’s Andy Wachowski and sex-changed Lana Wachowski debut their long-awaited time-spanning Cloud Atlas (with Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent and Hugh Grant).
Harry Potter director Mike Newell has a world premiere adaptation of Great Expectations with Holliday Grainger, Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter.
In another world premiere, Bill Murray plays FDR in Hyde Park on the Hudson, Roger Michell’s film about the president and First Lady playing host to the King and Queen of England in 1939.
Liz Garbus’s Love, Marilyn, an “innovative doc” based on Monroe’s letters to her acting coach and starring Elizabeth Banks, Lindsay Lohan and Evan Rachel Wood.
Mira Nairís The Reluctant Fundamentalist, about a young Pakistani man seeking success on Wall Street stars Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland and Liev Schreiber.
David O. Russell (The Fighter) matches Robert DeNiro and Bradley Cooper as father and son in Silver Linings Playbook, while Ramin Bahraini’s At Any Price sees Dennis Quaid as a farm dad at odds with his wannabe racecar driver son (Zac Efron).
In another classic adaptation, the U.K.’s Joe Wright unveils his version of Anna Karenina, written by Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare In Love) and starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law.
Annette Bening is in two TIFF films, Robert Pulcini and Sarah Springer Berman’s Imogene, with Matt Dillon and Kristen Wiig, and Sally Potter’s Ginger and Rosa, starring Elle Fanning, Alice Englert and Christina Hendriks.
And Ariel Vromen’s true-story serial killer film The Iceman stars Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, David Schwimmer and Michael Shannon.
A full list of announced films is available at tiff.net