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TORONTO — With the setting sun blazing against the Toronto skyline, The Hollywood Reporter launched its inaugural Breakthrough in Film Awards, presented by Bulgari, atop the Thompson Hotel by honoring actors Idris Elba and Naomie Harris.
The pair star in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom — Elba portrays the South African leader; Harris his wife Winnie — and, in the words of THR executive editor Matthew Belloni, definitely “made a breakthrough impression” with their much-talked-about performances.
PHOTOS: THR Honors ‘Mandela’ Stars Idris Elba, Naomie Harris at Swanky Toronto Fete
Belloni said THR created the Breakthrough in Film award to celebrate talent making a strong impression at the festival. “Toronto is a place to discover films and great performances, so it makes sense to give the award here,” he added.
For his part, Elba said it was an honor to be representing Mandela at the festival.
“I love TIFF, and I’m so proud to unveil Mandela here,” Elba said during THR‘s inaugural event, sponsored by Bulgari, City National Bank and Ontario Media Development Corp.
For Harris, the THR celebration brought her full circle as she said it was three years ago during the Toronto Film Festival that she got the role. Earlier in the day, she said, she received a standing ovation for her work in the movie.
“So it means so much to be here,” said the actress, who only two days earlier celebrated a birthday. Coincidentally, Elba also celebrated his birthday the same day.
VIDEOS: THR’s Exclusive Interviews With the Biggest Stars at Toronto
About 200 guests dined on lamb sliders and mango-encrusted chicken bites and vegetarian empanadas. Oscar contenders were a popular topic among those in attendance, and among those doing the talking, while sipping cocktails were Dallas Buyers Club exec producer Cassian Elwes, Sony Pictures Classics’ Tom Bernard, Nu Image/Millennium Films’ Avi Lerner and Mark Gill, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, Entertainment One’s Darren Throop, actor Tom Felton and Mandalay Pictures’ Matthew Rhodes and Robin Bronk of the Creative Coalition.
Among those films receiving Oscar buzz during the fest is Fox Searchlight’s 12 Years a Slave. During THR‘s inaugural event, Searchlight president Nancy Utley said the film’s reception has been gratifying.
“The awards conversation is nice, and it’s especially critical for a challenging movie like this,” she said. “I sincerely hope we can get to that point in the season.”
Stacey Wilson contributed to this report.
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