TIFF to feature U2 doc, Clooney and Pitt flicks
The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, July 26, 2011 1:39PM EDT
TORONTO - Davis Guggenheim's "From the Sky Down" -- a look at Irish supergroup U2 -- will kick off the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival, the first time a documentary has landed the coveted opening night slot.
The festival, which runs Sept. 8 to 18, will also feature Brad Pitt's baseball flick "Moneyball" and the George Clooney political thriller "The Ides of March."
Although organizers had yet to confirm which celebrities will appear on the red carpet, TIFF director Piers Handling said it's shaping up to be a stellar showcase of Hollywood heavyweights.
Luminaries with projects bound for Toronto include Madonna, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola, Ralph Fiennes, Jon Hamm, Ryan Gosling, Pedro Almodovar, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, Jude Law, Hugh Jackman and Anthony Hopkins.
"It's a really astounding lineup of people, it's hard for me to keep them straight in my head," Handling said.
Two high-profile Canadian films will also unspool at the annual movie extravaganza: Sarah Polley's "Take This Waltz" with Seth Rogen, Michelle Williams and Sarah Silverman, and David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method" with Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen.
"Moneyball" features Pitt as unconventional Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane, while the "The Ides of March" -- co-starring Gosling, Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman -- takes place in the days before a tight Ohio presidential primary. It's one of two Clooney films scheduled for Toronto's 36th annual film fest, along with the Hawaii-set dramedy "The Descendants," from "Sideways" director Alexander Payne.
Last year, festival co-director Cameron Bailey broke with tradition and chose a non-Canadian film for opening night. This year, he went a step further by selecting the documentary by Guggenheim, who won an Oscar in 2007 for "An Inconvenient Truth." The filmmaker is no stranger to Toronto, having appeared at the fest for 2008's guitar doc "It Might Get Loud" (which featured U2 guitarist the Edge) and his 2010 look at the U.S. education system, "Waiting For Superman."
Handling said "From the Sky Down" offers an inspiring glimpse of artists at work, documenting U2 as they make their 1991 album "Achtung Baby" and grapple with their identity as a band.
"This year we felt the most appropriate film was to go with something just a little bit different that kind of celebrated the whole act of creativity," said Handling, adding that the Irish rockers will almost certainly be in town to walk the red carpet.
"This is one of these bands that went through a moment in their career when they were trying to re-establish themselves as a band and I think we kind of responded to it because it's a little bit like what we are going through as an organization, TIFF. You're trying to reorient yourself and find a new direction, become perhaps bigger or truer to yourself or whatever and I think that resonated with us."
Toronto audiences are also set to get a glimpse of Madonna's romantic feature "W.E." which traces the romance between American divorcee Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII, and Coppola's "Twixt," which features an author caught in a murder mystery.
Fiennes tackles Shakespeare as the director and star of "Coriolanus," Almodovar flirts with sci-fi in the dark drama, "The Skin I Live In" and Lars von Trier's "Melancholia" lands on this side of the pond after the controversial director was ejected from the Cannes Film Festival in May for attempting to joke about Hitler.
Also scheduled for the fest is the world premiere of Bruce Beresford's "Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding," starring Fonda and Catherine Keener in the story of an uptight lawyer who takes her two teens to visit their hippie grandmother.
Meanwhile, the Tilda Swinton vehicle "We Need to Talk About Kevin" is based on an acclaimed book by Lionel Shriver and earned raves at Cannes earlier this year. Jackman turns up in the comedy "Butter," Law and Hopkins appear in Fernando Meirelles' look at love in "360," while Wiig and Hamm are featured in the ensemble comedy "Friends With Kids."
Music fans will be primed for Cameron Crowe's new doc "Pearl Jam Twenty," which looks at the seminal band's formation, rise to stardom and step back from the spotlight. Pearl Jam is scheduled to give a concert at the Air Canada Centre during the festival.
Other world premieres announced by organizers include: "50/50," starring Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard and Anjelica Huston; Derick Martini's "Hick," featuring Chloe Moretz and Blake Lively; and the Susan Sarandon/Judy Greer offering "Jeff, Who Lives at Home." "Killer Joe," with "Into the Wild" star Emile Hirsch, will make its North American premiere.
The festival, known for its audience-friendly atmosphere, is often a launching pad for future Oscar winners.
Bailey noted that last year, "The King's Speech" was the fan favourite in Toronto and went on to claim the best picture Academy Award.
In 2008, festival audiences made "Slumdog Millionaire" their pick and it, too, ultimately nabbed the top Oscar prize.
"The Toronto audience saw and celebrated 'The King's Speech' here first, proving once again to be some of the most informed and enthusiastic filmgoers in the world," said Bailey.
"The role of discovery is central to our mission and no doubt there will be more stories like this in 2011."
Polley said she was thrilled to have snagged a prestigious gala position for her romantic drama, "Take This Waltz," shot in downtown Toronto last summer.
"It's been a long time working on the film and the ideal for us was always launching at the Toronto film festival so we couldn't be happier," said Polley, who made her directing debut with the Alzheimer's drama, "Away From Her."
"It definitely celebrates a kind of aspect of the city that I love. I think I romanticize the city a little bit but it sort of shows that colourful and sort of steamy side of Toronto that happens in the summer that I think isn't often shown on film."
Handling noted that this year's showcase will also recognize the 10th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, which fall on the first Sunday of the festival.
Organizers have commissioned a short film that he hopes will honour the community touched by the events.
"Over the past few months we have been discussing the most appropriate and respectful way to mark this important day in our festival calendar," he said.