The sprawling Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has announced its most high profile films, 19 galas and 49 special presentations from a record 68 countries.
The Australian film Lion is prominent as one of the prestigious Festival galas, and is already receiving a mighty push from the film’s US distributor Harvey Weinstein for the upcoming awards season, including early Oscar talk Dev Patel's portrayal of Tasmanian Saroo Brierley.
At age five, Saroo, born in central India, was lost on a Calcutta-bound train, after which he was deemed an orphan and adopted by an Australian couple (played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). Twenty-five years later the determined Aussie businessman successfully used Google Maps to locate his Indian mother. He wrote a bestseller, 'A Long Way Home', which Luke Davies (Candy, Life) adapted for the big screen.
“It’s probably the best script I’ve ever read,” Patel told me at TIFF last year. Having recently wrapped Lion he sported the floppy mane and muscles he displays in the film and admitted to looking “big and hairy”.
“The film’s director Garth Davis (Top of the Lake) not only physically changed what I looked like, but he really forced me to go on a journey which was a different embodiment of the way I sound, everything.”
The London-born actor, who is of Indian heritage, learnt an Australian accent, though a little bashful, refused to give a sample. “Oh, no!” It helped that he was acting alongside Kidman, another likely awards contender for the film.
“Nicole is so raw and strips away all of that glamour that she has as a human being,” he said. “Rooney Mara plays my girlfriend so it’s an incredible cast.”
Another awards contender, the real-life inter-racial drama Loving starring Joel Edgerton and Ireland’s Ruth Nega, will have its North American premiere at TIFF after wowing the crowds in Cannes.
There are five other Australian actors starring in prominent TIFF films.
Yvonne Strahovski and Jason Clarke appear alongside Blake Lively in Marc Forster’s US psychological thriller All I See Is You. Shot in exotic Thai locations, it follows a blind woman whose sight is restored (Lively), who begins to discover previously unseen and disturbing details about herself, her husband (Clarke), their marriage, and their lives.
Jim Sheridan’s Irish feature The Secret Scripture makes its world premiere in the gala section, and features Eric Bana alongside Vanessa Redgrave, Theo James and Rooney Mara (again). Sounding like a strong vehicle for Redgrave, it follows a woman who has been institutionalised in a psychiatric facility for years when Bana’s new chief psychiatrist unearths her hidden memoir revealing how she got there in the first place.
Ben Mendelsohn stars in Benedict Andrews’ UK-Canadian drama Una, which most likely will screen in Venice first. When a young woman (Rooney Mara yet again) unexpectedly arrives at Mendelsohn's workplace looking for answers, the secrets of the past threaten to unravel his new life.
Also most likely premiering in Venice is Brimstone from Dutch director Martin Koolhoven who I hear was keen to have his film premiere at the more intimate Italian festival. Dakota Fanning plays a heroine carved from the wilderness and Guy Pearce is a vengeful preacher. The Aussie met his currently pregnant partner, Carice van Houten (Melisandre, the Red Priestess from Game of Thrones) on the film, which also features another Game of Thrones regular, Kit Harrington.
Michael Fassbender, who has taken a shine to our part of the world whilst filming The Light Between Oceans (which should be in Venice) and Alien: Covenant, stars alongside fellow Irishman Brendan Gleeson in the world premiere of the UK movie, Trespass Against Us, which focuses on a warring family of notorious British outlaws who spend their time raiding large estates and tormenting the police.
Oh, and in Garth Jennings’ animated musical comedy, Sing, one-time New South Wales resident Matthew McConaughey voices a koala who holds a singing competition to save his theatre from closure.