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World debuts for Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, starring Brad Pitt, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Benedict Cumberbatch; Kevin Macdonald’s How I Live Now with Saoirse Ronan; and Richard Ayoade’s The Double with Jesse Eisenberg trumpet a heavyweight British presence during this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Coupled with red carpet strolls by Cumberbatch for The Fifth Estate and August: Osage County, and the British Film Institute (BFI) noting that 25 films in the lineup have British backing, the U.K. invasion is on.
The BFI (which distributes the U.K. lottery movie funding), BBC Films (the standalone movie-making arm of the public broadcaster) and Channel 4’s Film 4 are among the film funders with reasons to celebrate after relatively slim pickings for British efforts earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival.
Ejiofor also is here as the male lead opposite Thandie Newton in Half of a Yellow Sun produced by Andrea Calderwood and Gail Egan, while Oscar-winning Brit producer Jeremy Thomas lands with Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive with Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, alongside Jude Law and Richard E. Grant starrer Dom Hemingway.
Thomas says it comes down to timing, with his films being ready for the fall festival schedule but not in time for Cannes. “It’s very busy at the moment,” says Thomas. “Toronto is a great festival for the films.”
Also securing a place on the Toronto roster are Roger Michell’s Le Week-End, David Mackenzie’s Starred Up and the North American premieres of Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin and Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant. U.S. acquisitions executives will also be putting the festival screenings of Joel Hopkins’ Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson two-hander The Love Punch, the musical Sunshine On Leith, featuring songs by Scottish band The Proclaimers, and Ayoade’s The Double firmly in their schedules.
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