Aussie talent abounds in this recent announcement of the Special Presentations and Galas sections at this year's prestigious Toronto International Film Festival.
Margot Robbie and Guy Pearce will be there in starring roles, while Nicole Kidman, Ben Mendelsohn, Abbie Cornish and Samara Weaving will play supports. Yet the Galas and Special Presentations sections are only the beginning of the Toronto Film Festival’s announcements, and there will surely be more Australian films announced for the festival in the coming weeks.
The big news on the filmmaking front is that Ben Lewin’s The Catcher Was a Spy will have its world premiere at TIFF. The Los Angeles-based Australian filmmaker, who made a huge splash in Toronto with 2012’s The Sessions, directs a war drama based on Robert Rodat’s novel. It stars Paul Rudd as Moe Berg, a former baseball player who became a US spy during World War Two, while Guy Pearce co-stars as Robert Furman, who was a chief of foreign intelligence directing espionage against the German nuclear energy project.
Sydney-born Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl), who has long been making inroads in Hollywood, world premieres I, Tonya with Margot Robbie taking to the ice to play disgraced US figure skater Tonya Harding.
The ubiquitous Nicole Kidman will be at the festival in another world premiere, Neil Burger’s currently-untitled remake of the 2011 French hit The Intouchables directed by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano. The action will focus on Bryan Cranston as the wealthy wheelchair-bound curmudgeon and Kevin Hart as his carer. (Interestingly, C’est la vie, the new film by Nakache and Toledano, will be the closing film at TIFF.)
Haifaa Al Mansour – the first female Saudi director, who once trained in Sydney and made 2013’s breakout hit Wadjda – world premieres Mary Shelley starring Elle Fanning. The film follows the Frankenstein author’s relationship with her husband Percy Shelley.
Joe Wright’s The Darkest Hour stars a puffed-up Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in his first days as British prime minister during World War Two. Lily James is his secretary, while Ben Mendelsohn plays King George VI (hopefully a less campy portrayal than his Viceroy in Exodus: Gods and Kings). The film comes hot on the heels of Australian director Jonathan Teplitzky’s Churchill, in which Brian Cox portrayed the leader at a later stage.
As a fan of Martin McDonagh (writer-director of In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths), I can't wait to see Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. His new film stars Frances McDormand as an intrepid mum disgruntled that the local police chief (played by Woody Harrelson) has not found her daughter’s killer. When Sam Rockwell’s unhinged second-in-charge cop gets involved, things turn from bad to worse. The film also features Aussie actresses Abbie Cornish and Samara Weaving. In our Seven Psychopaths interview, McDonagh regretted having to leave the bulk of Cornish’s scenes on the cutting room floor and said he’d make up for it this time. We shall see.
Jason Clarke features alongside Carey Mulligan in Mudbound, Dee Rees’s depiction of life in racially divided 1940s Mississippi. The film has been given a prestigious gala slot, even though it already screened at Sundance earlier this year before being picked up by Netflix. Clarke also stars as Ted Kennedy in Tracks director John Curran’s Chappaquiddick, which was expected to show up in Toronto, though hasn’t yet.