Toronto Film Festival Lineup: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Jane Fonda Films to Get the Gala Treatment

George Clooney
George Clooney
 Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

George Clooney should be the toast of the town at September’s 36th Toronto International Film Festival as he takes center stage with two movies: the political thriller The Ides of March, which will hit Toronto for a gala screening at Roy Thomson Hall after first playing as opening night film at the Venice International Film Festival, and the family drama The Descendants, which will screen as part of the Special Presentations sidebar.

Adding to Toronto's star billing, galas are also planned for Moneyball, in which Clooney's Ocean's Eleven sidekick Brad Pitt stars as baseball manager Billy Beane, and Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding, in which Jane Fonda, who once epitomized '60s rebellion, returns as a hippie grandmother. Madonna will bring the new film she has directed W.E., which examines the affair between Wallis Simpson and Edward the VIII, which the Weinstein Co. will release stateside Dec. 9. And Canadian directors will be represented by David Cronenberg, whose A Dangerous Method, which stars Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud and Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung and which Sony Pictures Classics has picked up for release, and Sarah Polley, whose Take This Waltz stars Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen in a look at long-term relationships.

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With the sprawling festival set to kick off Sept. 8 and run through Sept. 18, festival organizers announced their first group of selections Tuesday.

For the first time, the festival will open with a documentary, Davis Guggenheim's The Sky Down, an account of the band U2, which festival co-director Cameron Bailey called a "powerful marriage of music and film that honors U2's talent, dedication and music."

Gala screening berths have also been reserved for Rodrigo Garcia's Albert Nobbs, in which Glenn Close plays a woman passing as a man, which Roadside Attractions has picked up for release; Jim Field Smith's Butter, a comedy about championship butter carving starring Jennifer Garner, which the Weinstein Co. will distribute; Remi Bezancon's A Happy Event, starring Louise Bourgoin, which focuses on a pregnancy; and Luc Besson's The Lady, starring Michelle Yeoh as Burmese political dissident Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Special Presentations lineup includes world premieres of 50/50, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young cancer patient; Roland Emmerich's Elizabethan-era thriller Anonymous, starring David Thewlis and Vanessa Redgrave; and Woman in the Fifth, in which Ethan Hawke plays a writer who meets a mysterious stranger in Paris.

The sidebar also includes first looks at such intriguing titles as Fernando Meirelles' 360, a collection of linking stories inspired by Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde, written by Peter Morgan and starring Jude Law and Rachel Weisz; Todd Solondz's latest offbeat tale, Dark Horse, starring Justin Bartha and Selma Blair as a young couple with arrested development; Jennifer Westfeldt's Friends with Kids, an ensemble comedy whose cast includes Kristen Wiig, Megan Fox, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph and Edward Burns; Marc Forster's Machine Gun Preacher, starring Gerard Butler in the true story of Sam Childers, a reformed drug dealer, which Relativity will release in the U.S. on Sept. 23; Rampart, a police drama which marks the reteaming of director Oren Moverman and Woody Harrelson after their successful work together in 2009's The MessengerLasse Hallstrom's Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, in which Ewan McGregor plays a fishery scientist who introduces salmon fishing to Yemen;  Michael Winterbottom's Trishna, a retelling of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles set in modern-day India ans starring Freida Pinto; and Francis Ford Coppola's murder mystery Twixt, starring Val Kilmer.

Clooney, whose Up in the Air drew applause when it played Toronto two years ago, not only stars in Ides but also directed and co-wrote the film based on Beau Willimon's play Farragut North, with his Smoke House producing partner Grant Heslov. Sony will release the movie about backroom politics, which also stars Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti, on Oct. 7.

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Alexander Payne directed Clooney's other feature The Descendants -- set for a Nov. 23 release by Fox Searchlight -- in which the star plays a dad reconnecting with his two daughters.

Several of the key players in last year's The Social Network -- Scott Rudin and Michael De Luca, who produced along with Rachael Horovitz, as well as Aaron Sorkin, who shares screenwriting credit with Steven Zaillian -- have joined forces for Moneyball, the true-life baseball tale in which Pitt appears alongside Jonah Hill and Hoffman. On Sept. 23, Sony will releases the feature, which Bennet Miller directed after the studio parted ways with Steven Soderbergh.

Peace, the third gala title announced Tuesday, was produced by BCDF Pictures and will be looking for a distributor in Toronto. Bruce Beresford directed the comedy about a New York lawyer, played by Catherine Keener, who takes her two teens, Elizabeth Olsen and Nat Wolff, to visit their grandmother, portrayed by Fonda, in upstate New York.

In addition to The Descendants, Special Presentations is crowded with world premieres.

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In Jonathan Levine's 50/50, coming from Summit on Sept. 30, Gordon-Levitt is surrounded by Rogen, Anna Kendrick and Bryce Dallas Howard as his character deals with cancer.

Anonymous, which Sony will release on Oct. 28, is a change-of-pace from director Emmerich, who usually traffics in apocalyptic disaster movies, but here examines the court intrigue around the authorship of Shakespeare's plays, which the movie credits to Edward De Vere, played by Rhys Ifans, with Redgrave on hand as Queen Elizabeth I.

In Pawel Pawlikowski's Woman, which ATO Pictures will distribute Stateside, Hawke plays an American in Paris who gets mixed up with a stranger, Kristin Scott Thomas, whose Sarah's Key bowed at last year's Toronto fest.

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The list of world premieres also includes Wang Xiaoshuai's 11 Flowers, about an 11-year-old boy who meets a murderer on the run; in Mathieu Demy's Americano, starring Salma Hayek and Geraldine Chaplin, the French director, who happens to be the son of Agnes Varda and Jacques Demy, plays a man who returns to Los Angeles in search of his past; in Malgorzata Szumowska's Elles, Juliette Binoche will be seen as a Paris-based journalist researching prostitution; Derick Martini's Hick stars Chloe Moretz as a 13-year-old who heads west in search of stardom, meeting Blake Lively along the way; Jason Segel plays a man searching for the meaning of life while on the way to a store to buy some glue in Jeff, Who Lives at Home, directed by the brothers Jay and Mark Duplass.

Other movies making their world premiere are: Cedric Khan's French feature A Better Life, about the difficulties a couple face when they open a restaurant; from Australia, Jonathan Teplitzky's Burning Man, starring Matthew Goode and Rachel Griffiths; Huh Jong-ho's Countdown, from Korea; Terence Davies' The Deep Blue Sea, a new adaptation of the Terence Rattigan play starring Weisz; Daniel Nettheim's The Hunter, a psychological drama starring Willem Dafoe; Julian Farino's The Oranges, which looks at how an affair affects two families; and Jamie Linden's Ten Year, which trains its camera on a group of friends at their high school reunion.

Like Ides, William Friedkin's crime tale Killer Joe, starring Matthew McConaughey and Emile Hirsch, will play Venice on its way to Toronto.

A number of titles that were introduced at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year will also appear in the sidebar: Drake Doremus' Like Crazy, with Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones headlining; Sean Durkin's Martha Marcy May Marlene, starring Olsen and Paulson; Jeff Nichols' Take Shelter, in which Michael Shannon prepares for a coming apocalypse (SPC is set to release); and Paddy Considine's Tyrannosaur, starring Peter Mullan, which Strand has picked up.

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There are also several films that were first seen in Cannes: Lars von Trier's Melancholia, which was overshadowed by the director's controversial remarks about Hitler back in May; Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist, for which TWC has awards season hopes; Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, starring Ryan Gosling, which FilmDistrict releases Sept. 16; Nanni Moretti's Vatican-set Habemus Papam; Pedro Almodovar's The Skin I Live In, starring Antonio Banderas, another SPC title; Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin, which is built around a critically-applauded performance by Tilda Swinton and which was picked up by Oscilloscope, and Nadine Labaki's Where Do We Go Now?, set against the backdrop of wartorn Lebanon.

TWC's Coriolanus, an adaptation of the Shakespeare play starring and directed by Ralph Fiennes, which appeared at the Berlin Film Festival, also got the Toronto nod.

Rounding out the line-up are: Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud's Chicken with Plums, set in Tehren in 1958; Fred Schepisi's The Eye of the Storm, an adaptation of the novel by Patrick White that stars Geoffrey Rush and Charlotte Rampling; Morten Tyldum's Headhunters, from Norway; Steve McQueen's Shame, starring Fassbender as a man whose sex life is out of control; and Ann Hui's Hong Kong-set A Simple LIfe, starring Andy Lau.

And director Cameron Crowe, who in between narrative features has been busying himself helming music documentaries, will bring his newest doc Pearl Jam Twenty, which takes a look back at the entire history of that band, as a world premiere.

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