On Tuesday organizers of the Toronto International Film Festival released the 2014 gospel according to TIFF – the official schedule indicating, among other things, which films will screen at Roy Thomson Hall from Sept. 4 to 13 as red-carpeted gala premieres.
Galas draw celebrities. Each year Toronto’s downtown core becomes electric with the energy and excitement of their presence. Every night fans form a gauntlet of smiling faces, waving hands, shouts and camera flashes as the movie stars exit their black SUVs and approach the red carpet.
While TIFF cannot guarantee the presence of every star listed in a film’s credits, rest assured that it’s in every actor’s best interest to attend TIFF premieres. Toronto film audiences are notoriously well-informed and passionate. They impact a film’s popularity and can launch those worthy on the road to Oscar.
Ten days. Twenty gala presentations. Here are the reasons why hundreds of celebrities will shine amidst thousands of TIFF attendees. Let the frenzy begin.
‘The Judge’ (Sept. 4)
The prestigious opening night slot has been given to Robert Downey Jr.’s new drama “The Judge” in which he plays a big-city lawyer who returns home to defend his estranged father (Robert Duvall), a small-town judge charged with murder. Co-stars include Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard, and Billy Bob Thornton.
‘Boychoir’ (Sept. 5)
Dustin Hoffman stars as a demanding choir master who clashes with a difficult 11-year-old orphan (Garrett Wareing) whose troubled soul interferes with his talent for singing like an angel. Directed by acclaimed Canadian director François Girard (“Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould,” “The Red Violin”). Co-stars include Kathy Bates, Josh Lucas, Debra Winger, Kevin McHale and Eddie Izzard.
‘Ruth & Alex’ (Sept. 5)
Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman star as a married couple facing a series of calamities unrelated to their life-altering decision to sell the Brooklyn apartment where they have lived since the 1970s. Based on Jill Ciment’s novel “Heroic Measures.” Co-stars include Michael Cristofer, Cynthia Nixon, Claire Vanderboom, Korey Jackson, Carrie Preston, Sterling Jerins, Josh Pais, and Miriam Shor.
‘Black and White’ (Sept. 6)
Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer are the white and black opponents in a custody battle over their biracial granddaughter, putting racially-charged tensions smack in the middle of a single family. Written and directed by Mike Binder (“Reign Over Me,” “The Upside of Anger”). Principal cast includes Anthony Mackie, Andre Holland, Bill Burr, Mpho Koaho, Gillian Jacobs, Jennifer Ehle, and Jillian Estell.
‘The New Girlfriend’ (Sept. 6)
From France comes a witty film about a young woman (rising French star Anaïs Demoustier) who enters into an unconventional relationship with the husband of her late best friend after learning he is a closeted transvestite. Directed by François Ozon. Co-stars Romain Duris and Raphaël Personnaz.
‘The Riot Club’ (Sept. 6)
Danish director Lone Scherfig examines the British class system from the perspective of two young men inducted to the exclusive ranks of Oxford’s elite, decadent dining club known as the Riot Club. Based on Laura Wade’s original play “Posh.” Principal cast includes Sam Claflin, Max Irons, Douglas Booth, Jessica Brown Findlay, and Holliday Grainger.
‘Samba’ (Sept. 7)
From the directors of the breakout hit “Les Intouchables” comes a drama about a Malian migrant to France (Omar Sy, the exuberant caregiver in “Les Intouchables”) who fights to stay in his adopted country with the help of a rookie immigrant worker (Charlotte Gainsbourg).
‘This Is Where I Leave You’ (Sept. 7)
An all-star cast including Jane Fonda, Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Rose Byrne and Adam Driver star in this adaptation of Jonathan Tropper’s novel about a family reunion following the death of their patriarch. Directed by Montreal native Shawn Levy (“Date Night,” “Real Steel”).
‘The Equalizer’ (Sept. 7)
Denzel Washington stars as an ex-CIA agent who is recruited to protect a young woman (Chloë Grace Moretz) from the Russian mob. Adapted from the 1980s television series. Directed by action thriller champion Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day,” “Brooklyn’s Finest,” “Olympus Has Fallen”).
‘Foxcatcher’ (Sept. 8)
Bennett Miller won the 2014 Best Director Award at Cannes for this film based on the true-life story of multi-millionaire John du Pont and the deadly outcome of his relationship with brothers Mark and Dave Schultz, both Olympic wrestling champions. Memorable performances are given by Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum.
‘Wild’ (Sept. 8)
Reese Witherspoon stars in this adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling memoir about hiking the rugged and dangerous Pacific Crest Trail that winds along the west coast of the United States. Directed by acclaimed Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée (“Café de Flore,” “Dallas Buyers Club”), the film’s cast includes Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, Michiel Huisman, Gaby Hoffmann, and Kevin Rankin.
‘Haemoo’ (Sept. 9)
In a tense, high-seas adventure reminiscent of “Jaws,” this Korean film tells of a fishing boat crew risking their lives to smuggle a group of illegal immigrants from China to Korea. In Korean with English subtitles.
‘Maps to the Stars’ (Sept. 9)
From a script adaptation by Bruce Wagner of his novel “Dead Stars,” David Cronenberg directs this acidic view of fame and Hollywood misfortune starring Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson and John Cusack.
‘Infinitely Polar Bear’ (Sept. 10)
Mark Ruffalo stars as a loving single dad who suffers through manic depression while raising two young daughters. The film is based on the childhood experiences of its writer-director Maya Forbes. Principal cast includes Zoe Saldana, Imogene Wolodarsky, Ashley Aufderheide, Beth Dixon, and Keir Dullea.
‘Laggies’ (Sept. 10)
Keira Knightley portrays a dejected twenty-something who, following a dismal high school reunion and unwanted marriage proposal, escapes to the home of a neighborly teenager for a week of contemplating what to do with her life. Directed by Lynn Shelton (“Your Sister’s Sister”), the film also stars Sam Rockwell and Chloë Grace Moretz.
‘Pawn Sacrifice’ (Sept. 11)
Tobey Maguire plays American chess phenomenon Bobby Fischer as he battles USSR’s defending champion Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber) in the 1972 World Chess Championship that was dubbed “The Match of the Century.” Directed by Ed Zwick (“Legends of the Fall,” “The Last Samurai,” “Defiance”).
‘Escobar: Paradise Lost’ (Sept. 11)
While in Medellin, Columbia a surfer dude (Josh Hutcherson) meets the girl of his dreams (Claudia Traisac) but gets a brutal awakening when he finds out her uncle is drug kingpin Pablo Escobar (Benicio del Toro). Italian actor Andrea Di Stefano makes his directorial debut.
‘The Connection’ (Sept. 12)
Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”) stars as Pierre Michel, the French police magistrate who fought for six years to destroy Marseilles’ infamous French Connection drug ring. Written and directed by Marseille native Cédric Jimenez.
‘The Forger’ (Sept. 12)
John Travolta plays an expert art forger who, while released from prison to spend time with his dying son (Tye Sheridan) is coersed into participating in a major museum heist. Co-stars include Christopher Plummer, Abigail Spencer and Jennifer Ehle. This is the feature film directorial debut of Philip Martin, a veteran of British television.
‘A Little Chaos’ (Sept. 13)
TIFF’s closing night film is an historical drama, from actor-director Alan Rickman, about a landscape designer (Kate Winslet) who is commissioned to construct King Louis XIV’s garden at Versailles. Principal cast includes Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci, and Danny Webb.