Toronto: Stars Power 15 Hottest Festival Titles

Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Aniston and a homeless Richard Gere all have movies looking for a U.S. home

A version of this story first appeared in the Sept. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Toronto Film Festival titles seeking U.S. homes tout lots of star power, from Jennifer Aniston and Tobey Maguire to Jessica Chastain and Adam Sandler, though buyers don't yet know how broadly the movies will play. But there are sure to be plenty of domestic deals thanks in part to a new crop of U.S. distributors, including former Focus Features co-CEO Andrew Karpen's Bleecker Street. "The spring and summer were relatively good for independent film, so I think people are somewhat bullish," says Roadside Attractions' Howard Cohen.

One intriguing Toronto title every buyer is eager to see is Chris Rock's Top Five. He wrote, directed and stars in the film, about a comedian and famous film star who is forced to confront his past. Rock assembled a cast that includes Rosario Dawson, Tracy Morgan, Cedric the Entertainer, Kevin Hart and Sandler. UTA is handling domestic rights, while FilmNation is handling the movie overseas.

High-profile titles that could spark deals out of the Venice and Telluride festivals include the Andrew Garfield drama 99 Homes, Mia Wasikowska's Madame Bovary and two Al Pacino films: Barry Levinson's The Humbling and David Gordon Green's Manglehorn. One twist: Because of TIFF's new rule banning Telluride titles from playing the first week­end, the fest is allowing private-buyers screenings the first weekend to avoid a logjam the following week.

Here are the Toronto titles topping buyers' lists:

Before We Go (CAA/WME/Sierra)

Director: Chris Evans

Stars: Evans, Alice Eve

Buzz: This dramedy, which revolves around two strangers stuck together during a long night in NYC, marks the directorial debut of Evans -- aka Captain America -- making it a definite curiosity.

Big Game (WME/Altitude)

Director: Jalmari Helander

Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Onni Tommila

Buzz: The Midnight Madness entry stars Jackson as the U.S. president, saved by a 13-year-old boy after Air Force One crashes in the wild. Another adventure movie at Toronto pairing older and younger actors is The Reach, starring Michael Douglas and Jeremy Irvine.

Cake (WME/CAA/Conquistador)

Director: Daniel Barnz

Stars: Aniston, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington

Buzz: In a dramatic career shift, Aniston plays an emotionally empty person who becomes obsessed with the suicide of a woman from her chronic-pain support group. Buyers will look for strong perform­ances to overcome the bleak subject matter.

The Cobbler (WME/Gersh/Voltage)

Director: Tom McCarthy

Stars: Sandler, Dustin Hoffman, Steve Buscemi

Buzz: Buyers are intrigued by this fantastic tale of a cobbler who experiences the lives of others while wearing their shoes.

The Face of an Angel (WestEnd)

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Stars: Daniel Bruhl, Cara Delevingne, Kate Beckinsale

Buzz: Winterbottom maintains that his isn't an Amanda Knox movie but rather a fictional account of her trial in Italy for the 2007 murder of her roommate.

The Forger (WME/ICM/The Solution)

Director: Philip Martin

Stars: John Travolta, Christopher Plummer, Tye Sheridan

Buzz: This multigenerational heist film will test Travolta's star status as well as audiences' appetite for the genre. Another family crime movie that could make noise is Sarik Andreasyan's American Heist, starring Adrien Brody and Hayden Christensen as two brothers who become involved in a high-stakes bank robbery.

Good Kill (CAA/Voltage)

Director: Andrew Niccol

Stars: Ethan Hawke, January Jones, Zoe Kravitz

Buzz: The first film about the U.S. military's drone program is sure to be controversial and was made by Voltage Pictures, home of Oscar winner The Hurt Locker (it first plays in Venice).

Love & Mercy (CAA/Lionsgate)

Director: Bill Pohlad

Stars: John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti

Buzz: This biopic about Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame is the directorial debut of the respected financier-producer, whose credits include 12 Years a Slave. Dano's performance as a young version of the singer is said to be impressive.

Pawn Sacrifice (CAA/WME/Lionsgate)

Director: Edward Zwick

Stars: Maguire, Peter Sarsgaard, Liev Schreiber

Buzz: This retelling of the famed 1972 chess battle between Bobby Fischer (Maguire) and Boris Spassky (Schreiber) boasts a powerful pedigree, and buyers loved the script.

Miss Julie (CAA/Wild Bunch)

Director: Liv Ullmann

Stars: Chastain, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton

Buzz: Set in 1880 at an English manor, the film stars Chastain as a restless aristocrat who seduces her father's valet. Alan Rickman also has directed a period piece headed to Toronto: A Little Chaos, starring Kate Winslet as the woman commissioned to construct the gardens at Versailles for King Louis XIV. (Call it Downton Abbey syndrome.)

While We're Young (UTA/FilmNation)

Director: Noah Baumbach

Stars: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Driver

Buzz: Baumbach and Stiller's previous outing, 2010's Greenberg, grossed only $4.2 million domestically, but buyers are eager to check out their film about a couple who re-examines their relationship when a younger couple enters their lives.

Time Out of Mind (Paradigm/ICM/WME/QED)

Director: Oren Moverman

Stars: Richard Gere, Jena Malone

Buzz: Moverman is considered a brilliant writer (he also co-wrote Love & Mercy), and Gere showed box-office muscle with 2012's Arbitrage. In an unusual role, the debonair actor plays a homeless man in NYC trying to reconnect with his daughter.

Still Alice (CAA/Memento)

Directors: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland

Stars: Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth

Buzz: As with Cake, the subject matter potentially is a tough sell despite the star power: Moore plays a Columbia University professor who is grappling with the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

Welcome to Me (UTA/WME/Cargo)

Director: Shira Piven

Stars: Kristen Wiig, James Marsden, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Buzz: This satirical comedy centers on a woman with borderline personality disorder who wins the lottery and launches her own cable talk show (she loves Oprah).

Ruth & Alex (CAA/WME/Myriad)

Director: Richard Loncraine

Stars: Diane Keaton, Morgan Freeman

Buzz: The actors play a married couple in real estate hell after they put their Brooklyn home on the market. One downer: Keaton's comedy And So It Goes just bombed. Other films targeting a distinctly older audience are Ben Kingsley and Patricia Clarkson's Learning to Drive and Hoffman's Boychoir.

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