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The Toronto Film Festival is betting on a “star-studded” event with a strong US presence in September, as it unveiled 60 films for the highest-profile gala programs and special presentations amid Hollywood’s historic walkouts.
Roy Thomson Hall will host a world premiere of Craig Gillespie’s short-lived GameStop saga Stupid money, with Paul Dano, Pete Davidson, Shailene Woodley and Seth Rogen; and there are international bows for US director Chloe Domont’s Sundance success Correctness which went to Netflix and another Netflix title, NYAD, a biopic about marathon runner Diana Nyad starring Jodie Foster and Annette Bening Free solo directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin.
TIFF previously announced a world premiere of Gala for Taika Waititi’s The next target winsa football comedy starring Will Arnett and Michael Fassbender and is expected to be released soon by Searchlight Pictures.
Of course, whether Hollywood A-listers will go to Canada or skip the 48th edition remains to be seen, as SAG-AFTRA banned the striking members from promoting major studios and streamers at fall film festivals like Toronto and Venice.
Despite this backdrop, TIFF has booked a number of films by actors-turned-directors for its Special Presentations section. This includes Michael Keaton’s world premieres Knox leaves, his second directorial effort in which he stars opposite Marcia Gay Harden and James Marsden; Anna Kendrick’s directorial debut The woman of the hour; Chris Pine’s first feature film, stake man, where he stars alongside Annette Bening and Danny DeVito. There’s also a first look for Maggie Betts’ the burial, a courtroom drama starring Jamie Foxx opposite Tommy Lee Jones.
“Get ready to experience an unforgettable celebration of cinema and a star-studded, memorable festival showcasing the best of global cinema to film lovers in September,” Toronto Film Festival Chief Executive Cameron Bailey said in a statement Monday after SAG-AFTRA actors joined members of the Writers Guild of America in picketing a major stand against Hollywood film and TV producers.
In all, TIFF announced 37 world premieres, seven international premieres, and 12 North American premieres as part of its first wave of official selections.
First looks in the Special Presentations program include reservations for Grant Singer’s Reptile, a thriller on Netflix starring Frances Fisher, Alicia Siverstone and Benicio Del Toro; David Yates crime film Cheaters of pain, led by Emily Blunt; by Nicolas Larsson Mom Sofa, starring Taylor Russell, Ewan McGregor and Ellen Burstyn; and that of Greg Kwedar Sing Sing.
Toronto is looking to end its Hollywood actors’ strike by Sept. 7, when its 2023 edition kicks off and runs until Sept. 17, or the Canadian festival can do with far fewer A-listers on its red carpets this year to get a slew of U.S. takeover titles in front of movie buyers as part of its informal market.
Toronto has also booked world premieres in the Special Presentations program for Tony Goldwyn’s Ezra, a star-driven US title led by Bobby Cannavale, Robert De Niro and Rose Byrne; Azazel Jacobs’ His three daughters; The feature film directorial debut of Cord Jefferson American fiction; and Alex Gibney’s documentary In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simonwhich follows half of the duo Simon & Garfunkel as Simon made his latest album, Seven Psalms.
Announcements of Monday’s Gala and Special Presentations lineup were due to go out on July 19, but were delayed to this week as the festival held conversations with independent producers, major studios and streamers, and Hollywood agents about which US titles would be coming to Toronto in September, with or without A-list stars to lend the glitz and glamour.
Toronto also unveiled the international premieres of Ethan Hawke’s Flannery Connor biopic Wild cat, played by daughter Maya Hawke; by George C. Wolfe Rustin, a biopic about civil rights icon Bayard Rustin for Netflix and Obama’s Higher Ground banner; and Alexander Payne The Suspended, starring Paul Giamatti and is set for a Thanksgiving release after Focus Features acquired the elementary school comedy-drama for $30 million as part of the Toronto casual market a year ago.
Many of the US titles unveiled on Monday are similarly headed to Toronto with the rights for US, North American and international distribution up for grabs and in the face of major acquisition deals, both at the festival and out on TIFF.
Elsewhere in the first wave of Gala titles and Special Presentations, there is a focus on international auteur cinema and emerging directorial voices. The British survival film The end from which we startby director Mahalia Belo and starring Jodie Comer and Benedict Cumberbatch, who is also a producer, snagged a world premiere slot at the Gala, as did another UK title, Ellen Kuras’ biopic Lee Miller Leewith Kate Winslet.
And Roy Thomson Hall will host world bows for two Canadian films, Hate to Love: Nickelbackby director Leigh Brooks, and by Sophie Dupuis Solo; Even a first look as a gala title is from Ning Hao The emperor of cinema from China; and Honey Trehan’s Punjab ’95, from India; and South Korean director Um Tae-Hwa concrete utopia will have a North American debut as a gala title, as will that of Australian director Warwick Thornton The new boy, starring Cate Blanchett and which had its world premiere at Cannes. And there’s a Canadian premiere at Roy Thomson Hall for Kitty Green’s The Royal Hotelan Australian/British film.
Hollywood’s historic double strikes presented a major challenge for Toronto in serving as a key launch pad for major independent and specialty studios and streamers. Despite the U.S. Actors Union’s ban on film promotion, A-list actors with directorial debuts or later titles can still attend Toronto to advertise their latest work as directors, and kick off seasonal awards campaigns and home releases later in the year or in 2024. And Hollywood actors can get waivers from SAG-AFTRA to promote upcoming independent films not aligned with studios or streamers.
If international star power is ensured by the sidebar of special presentations, it will probably come with the world premieres of Kristin Scott Thomas star of the north, a British title where The English patient the actress plays alongside Scarlett Johansson and Siena Miller; British director James Hawes’ A life, starring Anthony Hopkins, Helena Bonham Carter, Lena Olin and Jonathan Pryce; by Michael Winterbottom Shoshana, led by Harry Melling and Douglas Booth; Lee Tamahori’s New Zealand epic the convert, with Guy Pearce and Te Kohe Tuhaka; by British director Anand Tucker The critic, with Gemma Arterton, Ben Barnes, Mark Strong and Lesley Manville; and Viggo Mortensen’s second directorial effort, The dead don’t hurta western that will also star Vicky Krieps.
There are also world bows in the special introductions sidebar for Thea Sharrock’s British period comedy Evil little letters, with Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley and Timothy Spall; the photo of New Zealand turmoil by directors Paul Middleditch and Hamish Bennett; and Ben Hardy’s protagonist Unicornsby directors James Khrishna Floyd and Sally El Hosaini, who gave TIFF the opening of the 2022 festival, the Netflix film The swimmers.
And there are world premieres in Lukas Muddysson’s high-profile sidebar together 99, the Swedish director’s sequel to his 2000 crossover hit Togethera comedy-drama set in a Swedish commune in the 1970s; The farmers, by directors DK Welchman and Hugh Welchman; The film by South Korean director Hur Jin-ho A normal family; By Dominic Savage Close to you, a UK-Canadian co-production; and that of Canadian director Chloe Robichaud Days of happiness.
The Special Presentations program also has North American premieres for Richard Linklater hitman, the action comedy starring Glenn Powell and Adria Arjona; Catherine Briellat’s erotic thriller Last summer, which competed at Cannes; and other titles in competition at Cannes, Kore-eda Hirokazu’s MonsterMarco Bellocchio’s Kidnapped and that of Alice Rohrwacher The Chimera.
There are international previews for Christos Nikou’s Nails, starring Jessie Buckley and Riz Ahmed and has already been picked up by Apple Studios; AND a difficult year, a comedy by Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, the French directors known for their previous comedy Untouchable.
Toronto has also booked additional North American premieres for Michel Franco Memory, a US-Mexico production; South Korean director Ryoo Seung-wan’s film smugglers; by Bertrand Bonello The beast; and that of the Argentine director Daniela Goggi The kidnapping.
And TIFF presented Canadian bows to the Palme d’Or winner at Cannes Anatomy of a fall, by French director Justine Triet; and Jonathan Glazer’s gripping Holocaust drama The area of interest, which won second prize after its world premiere at Cannes.
Toronto previously announced a special presentation slot for Atom Egoyan’s Seven Veilsthe opera-inspired drama starring Amanda Seyfried; and French director Ladj Ly’s The Undesirables.
Toronto Film Festival programmers will be making further lineup announcements in the coming weeks.