The paparazzi shots are just two weeks away: Gwyneth Paltrow giving her patented tilt-of-the-head pose. Johnny Depp glaring at the bank of red-carpet photographers. Dustin Hoffman all smiles with his shock of grey hair. Keira Knightley pouting over her shoulder.
The Toronto International Film Festival has announced its guest list, the usual teaming roster of celebrities and film auteurs confirmed to attend, as artistic director Cameron Bailey breathed a sigh of relief that a sizable roster of big names is in the cards.
“They’re all gets!” Bailey said with a laugh, hinting at not only the fickle nature of the business, but also the competition among international festivals for premieres and major names. “None of this is guaranteed, and we’re excited to have all of them here.”
TIFF of course caters to a particular niche of international and art-house films, as well as serious-minded Oscar bait from Hollywood studios, which use the festival as a publicity springboard before their films arrive at cinemas. This brings an eclectic mix of stars to the festival, from action heroes like Bruce Willis and Jackie Chan to A-listers like Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz (all of whom are slotted to make appearances this year). Among the long list of others scheduled to attend are Canadian heartthrob Ryan Gosling (to promote his role in The Place Beyond the Pines); Robert Redford, director and star of the political thriller The Company You Keep; and hipster polymath James Franco, who appears in Harmony Korine’s edgy Spring Breakers.
One visitor Bailey is particularly looking forward to welcoming? Salman Rushdie, who does the narration for Midnight’s Children, Deepa Mehta’s adaptation of his acclaimed book. “That’s kind of a personal thrill,” Bailey said.
Many famous names this year are coming in support of documentaries, including Depp for West of Memphis about the West Memphis Three murder case and Will Smith for Free Angela & All Political Prisoners, about Black Panther activist Angela Davis.
“To have both Slavoj Zizek, the great European thinker, and Snoop Dogg at the same festival, both associated with documentaries, is kind of cool as well,” Bailey said.
TIFF also announced Tuesday the final films added to the festival, among them Me and You, Bernardo Bertolucci’s first film in a decade, and Beyond the Hills by Cristian Mungiu, the director of 2007’s highly acclaimed 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.
With the full roster now revealed, TIFF’s director and chief executive Piers Handling noted that, although it is impossible to generalize too much about the 372 features and short films coming to the festival, one of this year’s notable themes is aging: “It seems like the baby boom generation has grown up and is dealing with … issues of aging, what it means to age.”
He also cited the theme of political change – second or third drafts of recent history. “A lot of films [look] back or deal with contemporary political issues,” Handling said. The Patience Stone, for instance, by director and novelist Atiq Rahimi looks at the emotional costs of a war-torn existence in the Middle East, while Mehta’s Midnight’s Children promises, like the original novel, to be a wide-ranging, magical-realistic look at Indian independence.
“A lot of films look backward and deal with the history of some of these [political] movements, and others are set very much in the present,” he said.