These five stars are working double time at the Toronto Film Festival this year: George Clooney (The Ides of March, The Descendants), Michael Fassbender (Shame, A Dangerous Method), Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March, Drive), Carey Mulligan (Shame, Drive) and Gerard Butler (Machine Gun Preacher, Coriolanus) are keeping busy, each with two films, at the September 8-18 fest. Which one will come out on top with some Oscar buzz? Easier said than done. Consider their Toronto track records:
Gosling's The Believer went to Toronto in 2001, and showed that Canada's once-upon-a-time Mickey Mouse Club child star could be one of the strongest actors of his generation. In 2007 he returned with the impressive Lars and the Real Girl and in 2010 Blue Valentine left the fest 2010 buzzing (though not enough to land Gosling his second Oscar nomination). Half Nelson skipped Toronto but launched at Sundance and earned Gosling his first Oscar nomination in 2007.
Toronto Films Pictured: The Ides of March (Dir: George Clooney, Co-stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood) and Drive (Dir: Nicolas Winding Refn, Co-stars: Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaacs, Christina Hendricks).
Clooney's Toronto history goes on forever; highlights include 2007's Michael Clayton, which yielded his first Best Actor nomination, the Coen brothers mainstream 2008 comedy Burn After Reading, and 2009's Up in the Air, which scored at the fest and earned Clooney another best actor nomination.
In 2005, both Clooney's Oscar-nominated 2005 sophomore directorial effort (after his debut with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind in 2002) Good Night, and Good Luck and Syriana skipped Toronto, for which Clooney won an Oscar as best supporting actor.
Toronto Films Pictured: The Descendants (Dir: Alexander Payne, Co-stars: Judy Greer, Shailene Woodley, Matthew Lillard, Beau Bridges) and The Ides of March (Dir: George Clooney, Co-stars: Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood)
Toronto 2008 ushered in Fassbender as one to watch with Steve McQueen's Hunger, and 2009's Fish Tank (from director Andrea Arnold, whose Wuthering Heights is premiering at Venice) confirmed him as a rising star.
Here is our 2009 interview with him, long before Mr. Rochester (Cary Fukunaga's Jane Eyre) and Magneto (Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: First Class) won the hearts of many this spring.
Pictured: Shame (Dir: Steve McQueen, Co-stars: Carey Mulligan) and A Dangerous Method (Dir: David Cronenberg, Co-stars: Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley, Vincent Cassel).
Mulligan debuted at Toronto with a supporting role in 2005's Pride & Prejudice, and when she returned in 2009 with An Education she went on to receive her first Oscar nomination. Never Let Me Go premiered at Toronto in 2010 but didn't gain much traction despite several strong performances, from Mulligan and co-stars Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley.
Pictured: Shame (Dir: Steve McQueen, Co-stars: Michael Fassbender) and Drive (Dir: Nicolas Winding Refn, Co-stars: Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaacs, Christina Hendricks).
Butler is an old Toronto hand; Dear Frankie screened in 2004, Beowulf & Grendel in 2005 and Rocknrolla in 2008. Butler's two Toronto entries are true redemption story Machine Gun Preacher (Dir: Marc Forster, Co-stars: Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon, Madeline Carroll) and Shakespeare's Coriolanus (Dir: Ralph Fiennes, Co-stars: Fiennes, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain, Vanessa Redgrave, James Nesbitt).
Who among this gang will be due for some awards consideration this year? Fassbender is already in line for Jane Eyre, although either of his Toronto films could supersede that early 2011 release. Much depends on how Shame and A Dangerous Method play in Toronto; both directors could go too far to the dark side for mainstream Academy voters. Gosling is on a roll; hit Cannes genre-film Drive could help to push him into contention for Liberal Academy-fave Clooney's The Ides of March, which boasts some of the same right stuff as Good Night and Good Luck.
The Academy smiled on Alexander Payne's Sideways, but The Descendants needs to score with critics and audiences in Toronto to achieve the same goals. Both of Mulligan's roles seem small and supporting. As for Butler, while he is a skilled and sensitive actor (Dear Frankie), Academy actors will need to get past his larger-than-life persona in order to take him seriously. Thus far he's been nominated for MTV and People's Choice Awards (300) and Razzies (The Bounty Hunter).