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Toronto World Premieres: What Did They Get?

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood July 22, 2014 at 12:45PM

When Piers Handling, CEO and Director of the Toronto International Film Festival and Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of TIFF announced the new rules for 2014's fall lineup--no world premieres at Telluride if you want a first opening weekend gala slot--they may not have realized that they were setting themselves up with the media.
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Reese Witherspoon in "Wild."
Reese Witherspoon in "Wild."

When Piers Handling, CEO and Director of the Toronto International Film Festival and Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of TIFF announced the new rules for 2014's fall lineup--no world premieres at Telluride if you want a first opening weekend gala slot--they may not have realized that they were setting themselves up with the media.

Jason Reitman on the set of "Labor Day"
Dale Robinette Jason Reitman on the set of "Labor Day"

That has become the story. So instead of sizing up the smorgasbord of titles they've selected for Toronto film audiences this fall, we're checking out the competition for bragging rights to high octane awards hopefuls. Which, by the way, is not what this is supposed to be about. And it begs the question: Did Telluride turn down some of the films that Toronto landed? Or did the distributors mix and match as they saw fit? A combination of the two, most likely. 

New York and Venice effectively took off the table Fox's "Gone Girl," Warners' "Inherent Vice," and Fox Searchlight's "Birdman" (which opens Venice and will play Telluride). So what did Toronto get? 37 world premieres from the likes of Noah Baumbach, Susanne Bier, David Dobkin, Mia Hansen-Løve, François Ozon, Christian Petzold, Lone Scherfig and Chris Rock. Plus 46 "Special Presentations." Still to be determined: the TIFF opener. The closer is actor-turned-director Alan Rickman’s period film “A Little Chaos,” starring Rickman, Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Stanley Tucci, a world premiere, natch. 


Check the "premiere" designations on the TIFF lineup below to see which films will have played elsewhere first. A "Canadian premiere," unless a film played at Sundance, means it's playing Telluride first--otherwise it would be a "North American premiere." (I'm working on the assumption that TIFF, under its new rules, knows what's playing where. Telluride never announces its schedule until the Thursday before Labor Day.)

Sony Pictures Classics, for example, has opted to take several titles to Telluride and give up the TIFF opening weekend berth--and thus garner less attention for their films during the week. Which does not make them happy. Why pick Telluride over the bigger Toronto with more media and bigger audiences? The Colorado festival is smaller, earlier and well-curated, with a strong contingent of key awards press--and special screenings for Academy members. It's a more pleasant experience for the filmmakers, with fewer press chores--they save that for Toronto. On the other hand, of the three films that skipped Toronto in favor of Telluride and New York last year--"All is Lost," "Inside Llewyn Davis" and "Nebraska"-- only the latter did well in the Oscar race. Toronto is partly about building mainstream buzz. 

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in 'The Imitation Game.'
Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in 'The Imitation Game.'
"Mr. Turner"
Sony Classics "Mr. Turner"

As usual some of the TIFF lineup already debuted at Cannes, including "Maps to the Stars" from hometown favorite David Cronenberg, starring Rob Pattinson and Best Actress winner Julianne Moore, which was presumably deemed too racy for the conservative opening night crowd.

Sony Pictures Classics award hopefuls include Cannes hits from Mike Leigh, "Mr. Turner," starring Cannes Best Actor winner Timothy Spall, and Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher," starring Channing Tatum and Steve Carell, which will both play in Telluride. Zhang Yimou's "Coming Home," which debuted at Cannes, isn't going to Telluride: it's a "North American premiere." And "Whiplash," starring Miles Teller, already played both Sundance and Cannes, which debuted SPC's brilliant Argentinian black comedy "Wild Tales." That's a must-see--and will be at Telluride.


Fox Searchlight's "Wild," one of two films starring Reese Witherspoon, is a big loss for Toronto: it's an "international premiere" even though director Jean-Marc Vallee ("Dallas Buyers Club") is Canadian. Searchlight is bringing Witherspoon, Vallee, and the Cheryl Strayed hiking contingent to the Rocky Mountains, a perfect setting for their awards launch. That must have hurt. Toronto did land a world premiere for Witherspoon's lower-profile effort, "The Good Lie," directed by Philippe Falardeau. And Searchlight gave Toronto bragging rights to Michael Roskam's much-anticipated follow-up to Belgian Oscar entry "Bullhead," his English-language debut "The Drop," starring Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace, which is a TIFF world premiere, to give the modest film an audience boost. 

Son of Canada Jason Reitman voted for the home team, awarding a world premiere for his latest Paramount film "Men, Women and Children," starring Judy Greer, even though he has considered Telluride a good-luck charm in the past for such films as "Up in the Air," "Juno" and "Labor  Day."


Among the Canadian premieres, Ramin Bahrani's indie-financed "99 Homes," starring Andrew Garfield, Laura Dern and Michael Shannon, which is looking for distributors, seems to be debuting in Telluride and/or Venice before Toronto, along with Weinstein Co.'s "The Imitation Game," directed by Morten Tyldum and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley (which opens London in October) and Jon Stewart's long-awaited debut film "Rosewater" (Open Road) starring Gael Garcia Bernal as an Iranian journalist imprisoned after his appearance on The Daily Show. 
Al Pacino in  David Gordon Green's 'Manglehorn'
Al Pacino in David Gordon Green's 'Manglehorn'
Two North American premieres going to Venice star Al Pacino, Barry Levinson's "The Humbling" and David Gordon Green's "Manglehorn," as well as "Good Kill," directed by Andrew Niccol and starring Ethan Hawke.

Many of the TIFF world premieres seem more commercial and mainstream and less awards-driven. In short they don't feel like Telluride art films: 
Daniel Barnz's "Cake," starring Jennifer Anniston and the ubiquitous Adam Driver; David Dobkin's "The Judge," starring Robert Downey, Jr.; "This is Where I Leave You" from Shawn Levy, starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Jane Fonda; Dan Gilroy's "Nightcrawler," starring an emaciated Jake Gyllenhaal; "Pawn Sacrifice" from Ed Zwick starring Tobey Maguire, Peter Sarsgaard and Liev Schreiber; Jean-Baptiste Leonetti's "The Reach," starring Michael Douglas and Jeremy Irvine; Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland's "Still Alice," starring Kristen Stewart and Alec Baldwin; Mike Binder's "Black and White," starring Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer; Antoine Fuqua's "The Equalizer," starring Denzel Washington; action thriller "American Heist," starring Adrien Brody; writer-director-star Chris Rock's "Top Five"; and actor-director Chris Evans' "Before We Go." Of course how the films play with critics and audiences in Toronto will change that equation. 

I look forward to seeing many of these films as well as promising world premieres "Miss Julie," from Norwegian actress-director Liv Ullmann, starring Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton, which is seeking distribution; "While We're Young," from writer-director Noah Baumbach, starring Amanda Seyfried and Adam Driver; "Time Out of Mind" directed by Oren Moverman and starring Richard Gere and Ben Vereen; James Marsh's "The Theory of Everything," starring Eddie Redmayne as young scientist Stephen Hawking; Daniel Barber's "The Keeping Room," a Civil War drama starring Brit Marling; Richard LaGravenese's "The Last Five Years," a musical starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan; "The Riot Club" from "An Education" director Lone Scherfig; "The New Girlfriend" from François Ozon, starring Romain Duris; "Learning to Drive" from Isabel Coixet, starring Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley; "Phoenix" from Christian Petzold, starring his muse Nina Hoss; and "A Second Chance" from Denmark auteur Susanne Bier, with hunky "Game of Thrones" star Nicolaj Coster-Waldau.


The full line-up is below.

This article is related to: Toronto, Toronto International Film Festival, Festivals, Festivals, Telluride, Telluride Film Festival, Wild, The Equalizer, Nightcrawler, Foxcatcher, The Judge, Robert Downey Jr., Robert Downey, TIFF 2014


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