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Toronto Preview: Awards Hopefuls Bring Real Figures to Life, from Dickens and Assange to Ginsberg and Mandela

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood August 5, 2013 at 4:02PM

There's a reason Sony Pictures Classics is moving up the release date of "The Invisible Woman" to Christmas Day. They think they may have the goods to make a go at an awards season play. This Ralph Fiennes-directed movie is world premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, one of many pictures with Oscar hopes that centers around bringing a real person to life.
Chiwetel Ejiofor, far right, and Quvenzhane Wallis, center left, on set in "Twelve Years a Slave"
Chiwetel Ejiofor, far right, and Quvenzhane Wallis, center left, on set in "Twelve Years a Slave"

Also based on true story is Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" (October 18), which Fox Searchlight is debuting at TIFF, starring Chiwetel Echiofor in the role of Solomon Northup, a free, educated black man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841. Michael Fassbender plays his owner; also starring are Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Quvenzhane Wallis, Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, Scoot McNairy, Garrett Dillahunt, Alfre Woodard, Dwight Henry, and Michael K. Williams.

'The Fifth Estate'
DreamWorks/Disney 'The Fifth Estate'

Chris Hemsworth stars as Brit playboy James Hunt in Ron Howard's "Rush," which Universal is releasing September 27 in time for the front-end of Oscar season. Penned by Peter Morgan ("The Queen"), the Imagine film stars Avenger Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl ("Inglourious Basterds") as '70s Formula 1 racing stars and arch-rivals Hunt and Austrian Niki Lauda. After he suffers a near-deadly crash, he returns to the sport to renew his intense rivalry with Hunt.

German Bruhl also takes on a role as WikiLeaks spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg opposite Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange in Bill Condon's "The Fifth Estate" (DreamWorks/Disney, October 18), which co-stars Alicia Wikander ("Anna Karenina"), Carice Van Houten ("Game of Thrones"), and Dan Stevens ("Downton Abbey").

Idris Elba in "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom"
Idris Elba in "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom"

The Weinstein Co. is presenting at TIFF at least three movies based on real historic figures: Idris Elba stars as the history-changing South African leader in "Mandela: Long Walk Home" (TWC, November 29), Judi Dench stars as "Philomena" in Stephen Frears' movie, co-written by star Steve Coogan, based on a real life adoption case; and James Corden plays Welsh miner Paul Potts in "One Chance," the opera singer who proved himself on Britain's Got Talent. Julie Walters and Simon Cowell co-star. (Coming out well before Toronto is "Lee Daniels' The Butler," the four-hankie true story of a butler who served in the White House through eight presidents, starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey as his wife.)

Mia Wasikowska reenacts a real-life 1000-mile trek in Australia in "Tracks," director John Curran's adaptation of the Robyn Davidson memoir of the same name. It's for sale in Toronto.

Andre Benjamin as Jimi Hendrix in 'All is By My Side'
Andre Benjamin as Jimi Hendrix in 'All is By My Side'

Matthew McConaughey lost 38 pounds to play straight AIDs patient and drug activist Ron Woodruff in Jean-Marc Vallee's "The Dallas Buyer's Club."Jennifer Garner co-stars. Focus Features will release the film on December 6. 

Outkast’s André Benjamin inhabits the late great Jimi Hendrix in a long-in-the-works biopic that is finally coming to fruition (because it features no songs), John Ridley's "All Is By My Side," a film that covers the Seattle guitarist when he was struggling in London, shortly before the breakout release of "Are You Experienced." Imogen Poots co-stars. Content Media will sell the film in Toronto.

Fox Searchlight has set a May 2014 release for the British period drama "Belle," directed by Amma Asante who in 2005 won a BAFTA for her debut film "A Way of Life." The film is based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw in her first starring role), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of Royal Navy Admiral Sir John Lindsey (Matthew Goode). "Belle" traces Dido's 18th century rise in the aristocracy and the adversity she faces due to her lineage as she falls in love with a young vicar. It also stars Tom Felton, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson and Miranda Richardson.

This article is related to: Festivals, Toronto International Film Festival, Toronto, 12 Years a Slave, Kill Your Darlings, Matthew McConaughey, Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Chris Hemsworth, Rush, Mia Wasikowska, Daniel Radcliffe, Daniel Brühl, Benedict Cumberbatch

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.