Robert Redford film to debut at Toronto fest

Guillaume Canet, Woody Allen, Mike Leigh pics also booked

Turning up the star wattage, the Toronto International Film Festival on Tuesday unveiled world premieres for films by Robert Redford, Guillaume Canet, Michael Winterbottom, John Cameron Mitchell, Tony Goldwyn, Emilio Estevez and David Schwimmer.

Redford's "The Conspirator," an investigation into the assassination of President Lincoln, starring Robin Wright, James McAvoy and Kevin Kline, will receive a gala screening at Roy Thomson Hall, traditionally a fall launchpad for Oscar contenders.

Getting the same gala treatment are Canet's "Little White Lies," a beachside drama that stars Marion Cotillard, Benoit Magimel and Gilles Lellouche, and the South African-set "The Bang Bang Club," Steven Silver's Canada/South Africa co-production starring Ryan Phillippe, Malin Akerman and Taylor Kitsch.

In all, about 50 films, including 25 world premieres, were unveiled Tuesday at the opening news conference for the fest's 35th edition.

Stars whose latest work will be on display include Nicole Kidman, playing one half of a married couple rocked by the death of their child, in Mitchell's "Rabbit Hole"; Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis facing off as rival ballerinas in Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan," which will travel to Toronto after its world premiere as the opening-night film at the Venice Film Festival; Keanu Reeves, playing a man unjustly imprisoned in Malcolm Venville's "Henry Crime"; Edward Norton and Robert De Niro circling each other in John Curran's psychological thriller "Stone"; and Ben Affleck, who has directed himself in the Boston crime drama, "The Town," which Warner Bros. will release domestically Sept. 17.

French acting royalty Catherine Deneuve will be seen in two features: Francois Ozon's "Potiche," in which she shares the screen with Gerard Depardieu, and Eric Lartigau's melodrama "The Big Picture." England's equally regal Helen Mirren also will get plenty of exposure from her appearances in John Madden's thriller "The Debt" and Rowan Joffe's adaptation of Graham Greene's novel "Brighton Rock."

There was no word on a possible Toronto berth for another of Mirren's star turns, the lead role in Julie Taymor's "The Tempest," already booked into Venice as its closing-night feature. And fest director Piers Handling would not be drawn into whether Mel Gibson will walk the red carpet to promote Jodie Foster's "The Beaver."

"We look at everything. We spread a wide net," Handling said after offering a "no comment" on the possibility of Gibson showing up in Toronto after the release of his taped rants directed at his former girlfriend.

Critics who lamented the lack of female filmmakers at the Festival de Cannes this year are likely to complain that the Toronto net isn't wide enough. Of the films announced Tuesday, only three are by women: Susanne Bier's "In a Better World," a drama about holocaust survivors; Indian director Kiran Rao's "Dhobi Ghat"; and Focus' "It's Kind of a Funny Story," written and directed by the husband-and-wife team of Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden.

Acknowledging the changing indie film scene, fest organizers conceded that the economic downturn has trimmed the sails of a host of traditional TIFF players, including the major studios, distributors and national film promotion agencies, especially those from Europe.

At the same time, Handling insisted that Toronto remains a must-attend on the festival circuit, alongside Cannes.

"(The festival) will just change and modify but not in a significant way," he said. "There still needs to be a major meeting ground in North America for the international industry."

Among U.S. distributors, Sony Pictures Classics is fielding the largest slate. It will be repped by a number of titles that were unveiled at Cannes -- Mike Leigh's "Another Year," Stephen Frears' "Tamara Drewe" and Woody Allen's "When You Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" -- as well as Bier's "Better World," Slyvain Chomet's animated "The Illusionist" and Nigel Cole's "Made in Dagenham," about female workers striking a Ford plant in Great Britain.

Fox Searchlight will use Toronto to launch such potential awards contenders as "Black Swan" and "Rabbit Hole"; "Conviction," in which Hilary Swank plays a woman putting herself through law school in order to save her brother, who has been convicted of murder; and Mark Romanek's mysterious "Never Let Me Go."

The Weinstein Co. also will preview three of its fall releases: Derek Cianfrance's marital drama "Blue Valentine," starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams; Julian Schnabel's Israel-set drama "Miral"; and Tom Hooper's British costume drama, "The King's Speech." Two of the Overture movies adopted by Relativity last week also will make an appearance: "Stone" and Philip Seymour Hoffman's directorial debut "Jack Goes Boating."

In addition to "Conspirator," "Lies" and "Club," Roy Thomson Hall will play host to world-premiere galas for George Hickenlooper's "Casino Jack," which stars Kevin Spacey as convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff; Estevez's "The Way," staring his father, Martin Sheen; British filmmaker Andy de Emmony's "West Is West," the sequel to "East Is East"; Bollywood star Om Puri returning as the star of "Janie Jones," from David Rosenthal; and Barry Blaustein's sibling drama "Peep World."

Along with "Swan," "Debt," "King's Speech," "Potiche" and "Town," North American premieres to receive red carpet treatment at Roy Thomson Hall include South Korean filmmaker Im Sang-Soo's "The Housemaid," which IFC has picked up for North American distribution, and "Barney's Version," starring Dustin Hoffman in an adaptation of Mordecai Richler's comic novel, from director Richard J. Lewis and producer Robert Lantos.

In the Special Presentations program, Toronto booked world bows for "Big Picture," "Brighton Rock," "Henry's Crime," "Conviction," "Stone" and "Rabbit Hole" as well as Mike Mills' "Beginners," starring Christopher Plummer as a father coming out of the closet and forcing his son (Ewan McGregor) to reconsider his own relationships.

Also bowing in Toronto is "Trust," Schwimmer's dark, pedophile drama that stars Clive Owen, Catherine Keener and Tom McCarthy, and Will Gluck's "Easy A."

And there are world bows for British director Richard Ayoade's "Submarine," and Winterbottom's "The Trip," a road movie starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.

The high-profile sidebar, which includes "Another Year," "Blue Valentine," "Illusionist" and "Jack Goes Boating," also will unspool Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Biutiful," which has yet to find a U.S. distributor in the wake of its Cannes bow, and "Buried," the Ryan Reynolds starrer from Rodrigo Cortes, which Lionsgate is releasing stateside.

There's also North American bows for "The Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen," from Hong Kong filmmaker Andrew Lau, and an international premiere for "Love Crime," French director Alain Corneau's office-politics drama, starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier as mentor and ingenue.

The only new sidebar at Toronto this year is the TIFF for Free program, where classic movies that launched in Toronto -- including "The Big Chill," "Roadkill," "Water" and "Crash" -- will unspool at Bell Lightbox, the year-round festival headquarters set to open Sept. 12.

TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey also hinted Tuesday at a possible 3D movie screening in Toronto, though no booking was unveiled.

The Toronto International Film Festival, set to run Sept. 9-19, will make additional programming announcements during the coming weeks.

Etan Vlessing reported from Toronto; Gregg Kilday reported from Los Angeles.
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