A controversial new programming policy which some Hollywood power players warned could damage the Toronto International Film Festival doesn't seem to have prevented TIFF from luring the usual flood of directors and movie stars for its thirty-ninth edition, unspooling early next month.
On Tuesday, TIFF unveiled a guest list that swooped from global superstars – Robert Downey Jr., Keira Knightley, Jennifer Aniston, Denzel Washington, Bill Murray, Morgan Freeman, and Kristen Wiig – to critically acclaimed actors such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Steve Carell, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Vanessa Redgrave, as well as blockbuster foreign cinema draws such as Bollywood's Priyanka Chopra.
Filmmakers bringing high profile pics to TIFF include Noah Baumbach (While We're Young), Michael Winterbottom (The Face of an Angel), David Cronenberg (Maps to the Stars), Xavier Dolan (Mommy), Philippe Falardeau (The Good Lie), Jean-Marc Valllée (Wild), Edward Zwick (Pawn Sacrifice), Isabel Coixet (Learning to Drive), Chris Rock (Top Five), Lone Scherfig (The Riot Club) and Sophie Barthes (Madame Bovary).
And Pink Floyd front man Roger Waters will bring the world premiere of a concert documentary he co-directed and in which he stars: Roger Waters The Wall, filmed during his 2010-2013 tour.
TIFF announced the guest list along with the final few feature film selections, which include the peripatetic James Franco's The Sound and the Fury, Theodore Melfi's St. Vincent, Polish director Krzysztof Zanussi's Foreign Body (Obce Cialo), and Haitian director Raoul Peck, who sets his Murder in Pacot in the upscale Port-au-Prince neighbourhood of Pacot following the January, 2010, earthquake.
Marjane Satrapi, whose Persepolis played at TIFF in 2007, returns with the Canadian premiere of The Voices, a well-reviewed dark comedy starring Ryan Reynolds, Anna Kendrick, and Gemma Arterton which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
This year's TIFF is seen as a test of a new policy ensuring that the gala films in the festival's opening weekend are either world premieres or North American premieres. In recent years, TIFF has seen some of its thunder stolen by the Telluride Film Festival, a low-key gathering in the mountains of Colorado which takes place over the three-day Labour Day weekend. Telluride has frequently featured the actual world premieres of films that TIFF had presented days later as world premieres, including four of the past six winners of the best picture Oscar: 12 Years a Slave, Argo, The King's Speech, and Slumdog Millionaire.
"We wanted to clarify the premiere status of the films that were coming to Toronto," said Piers Handling, the director and CEO of TIFF, in an interview. In recent years, he noted, "the media were constantly saying to us: I saw this film at another festival, and you guys are claiming it in your press material as a world premiere."
Under the new policy, films that play at Telluride will be permitted to premiere at Toronto after its opening weekend. This year's edition of TIFF runs Sept. 4-14.
Many big names will be doing more than walking red carpets and sipping Champagne at overcrowded parties.
This year's Mavericks program, which features onstage conversations with actors and filmmakers, includes Jon Stewart, whose directorial debut, Rosewater, will make its international premiere at TIFF, Richard Gere (Time Out of Mind); Robert Duvall (The Judge), Denzel Washington and director Antoine Fuqua (The Equalizer), Reese Witherspoon (starring in Wild and The Good Lie), Juliette Binoche (Clouds of Sils Maria) and Julie Taymor (A Midsummer Night's Dream).
The program will also feature a discussion between sex columnist Dan Savage and journalist David Thorpe after the premiere of the documentary Do I Sound Gay?, and The 50 Year Argument, a tribute to The New York Review of Books co-directed by Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi which will be followed by a discussion between Tedeschi and the Review's long-time editor Bob Silvers.
The TIFF box office opened Tuesday morning.
Here are some of the best-known performers and filmmakers expected to attend TIFF this year:
Benicio del Toro
Robert Downey Jr.
Anthony Michael Hall
Haley Joel Osment