Brick writer-director Rian Johnson’s time-travel thriller—starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis—will kick off this year’s edition of the Toronto International Film Festival.
Was it the tantalizing reunion of Joseph Gordon-Levitt with his Brick writer-director Rian Johnson that got the TIFF programmers so excited? Or was it the chance to finally realize the ambition to open the festival with a movie co-starring Bruce Willis?
Either way, Johnson’s time-travel thriller Looper was announced this morning as the opening gala for TIFF’s 2012 edition, which takes over the city Sept. 6-16. Willis plays the future version of a time-jumping assassin played by Gordon-Levitt, which must be a depressing thought for the not-yet-balding young actor. Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, and Paul Dano also star in the movie, which goes into wide release on Sept. 28.
Though not as seemingly random as some of TIFF’s other recent selections for the high-profile opening slot—e.g., that thoroughly non-descript U2 doc whose actual name no one can remember—it’s certainly not the most adventurous pick. Following Venice’s lead by selecting a film by a female filmmaker might’ve also been a smart move given the controversy over the sausage party at this year’s Cannes. Finally, it confirms that Canadian filmmakers’ lock on the opening slot is long gone. Indeed, only two homegrown features were mentioned among the more than 60 Galas and Special Presentation selections announced at TIFF Bell Lightbox this morning: Deepa Mehta’s long-awaited adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (the early favourite as the opener) and Inescapable by Toronto’s Ruba Nadda both got Gala slots. More Canadian picks will be announced in early August.
TIFF still snagged some tasty-fresh world premieres, though. The slate includes Argo, Ben Affleck’s docudrama about the efforts to free Americans trapped in Tehran during the revolution, and Silver Lining Playbook, a dramedy that pairs Bradley Cooper with the sometimes-great David O. Russell. There are also world premieres for two British features vying for “next King’s Speech” status: a new version of Great Expectations by director Mike Newell and Roger Michell’s Hyde Park on Hudson, based on the true story of how the British royals came to America looking for help to fight the Nazis (Bill Murray plays FDR!). Elsewhere in the Galas, there are North American premieres for Mira Nair’s Venice opener The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Robert Redford’s The Company You Keep and Billy Bob Thornton’s latest directorial effort, Jayne Mansfield’s Car. (Maybe Jian Ghomeshi can do the onstage Q&A.)
Always one of TIFF’s most sprawling sections, Special Presentations is already plenty diverse. The biggest news is the arrival of one of the fall’s most ambitious movies: an adaptation of David Mitchell’s much-loved novel Cloud Atlas by German director Tom Tykwer and the team formerly known as the Wachowski brothers. (Laurence has now completed his transition to Lana.) Contents otherwise range from world premieres for new films by Neil Jordan (Byzantium) and Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) to Ryan Gosling’s reunion with Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance (The Place Beyond the Pines) to the directorial debut of Dustin Hoffman (Quartet). This is also where you’ll find Cannes pick-ups like Rust and Bone, The Hunt and No, as well as less proven properties like Joss Whedon’s micro-budget rendition of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and docs on the Williams sisters (Venus & Serena) and Monty Python’s late great Graham Chapman (A Liar’s Autobiography).
Most tantalizing is the possibility that Terrence Malick will follow up his recent accidental appearance on TMZ to hit our red carpet for his latest feature, To the Wonder, a romantic drama starring the busy Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams. So if you see a dumpy bald guy in white pants hanging around Roy Thomson Hall, you should probably just assume it’s him and ask him to sign your DVD of The Tree of Life.
For the complete list of announcements, go to tiff.net/thefestival.