Tom Hanks' Mister Rogers Film, Joaquin Phoenix's 'Joker' Join Toronto Film Festival Lineup

The feature film selections for the fest's 44th edition include star turns by Jennifer Lopez, Meryl Streep, Matt Damon, Willem Dafoe, Liam Neeson and Keegan-Michael Key.

The Toronto International Film Festival on Tuesday unveiled the first titles for its 2019 edition, with Joaquin Phoenix's Joker for Warner Bros., Tom Hanks' Fred Rogers biopic and Universal's Abominable set to receive high-profile premieres.

The 44th annual fest, which is set to run Sept. 5-15, will give a world premiere to Sony and director Marielle Heller's A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, with Tom Hanks to play Fred Rogers, the beloved educator and children's TV personality; a North American bow for Todd Phillips' Joker, which has Phoenix doing a darker, more cerebral take on the Batman villain ahead of an Oct. 4 theatrical release; and a first look for DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studio's Abominable, from director Jill Culton, which hits theaters Sept. 27.

Other noteworthy titles that landed a spot in the TIFF lineup include a Canadian debut for James Mangold's Ford v Ferrari, the 20th Century Fox action automotive drama to star Matt Damon and Christian Bale and set for a Nov. 15 release after anticipated Venice and Telluride plays; and a world premiere for Lorene Scafaria's stripper drama Hustlers, starring Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu and Cardi B.

And Toronto, offering Hollywood an awards season snapshot with 29 world premieres in all, will close Sept. 15 with a world premiere of Radioactive, which stars Rosamund Pike as Nobel Prize-winning scientist Marie Curie in the upcoming feature from Persepolis director Marjane Satrapi, with StudioCanal and Amazon Studios co-financing.

Also booked into Roy Thomson Hall are world premieres for Justin Kurzel's Australian Western True History of the Kelly Gang, which skipped Cannes and stars George MacKay, Russell Crowe and Charlie Hunnam; Kasi Lemmons' Harriet Tubman biopic Harriet for Focus Features, which stars Janelle Monae and Cynthia Erivo; Warner Bros. and Amazon Studios' The Goldfinch, directed by John Crowley and starring Ansel Elgort; and Just Mercy, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx's upcoming civil rights drama directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and based on the best-selling memoir by defense attorney Bryan Stevenson as it follows the case of a black man who was sentenced to death for a crime he didn't commit.

"It's a true story and a remarkable story of justice in the U.S.," Cameron Bailey, artistic director and co-head of TIFF, told The Hollywood Reporter regarding Just Mercy.

Elsewhere, the fest will host world premieres for Roger Michell's Blackbird, starring Kate Winslet and Sam Neill; Thom Zimny and Bruce Springsteen's performance film Western Stars, based on the rock legend's latest album; and the Ireland-set Ordinary Love, directed by Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn and starring Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville.

Rounding out Toronto's first gala titles to be announced are world bows for Francois Girard's The Song of Names, the Tim Roth and Clive Owen drama earlier acquired by Sony Pictures Classics, and Indian director Shonali Bose's real-life drama The Sky Is Pink, with Priyanka Chopra in the lead role and co-producing; a Canadian debut for Semi Chellas' American Woman, a reimagining of the Patty Hearst affair; and an international premiere for Chinonye Chukwu's Clemency, the Sundance Grand Jury prize winner.

The Gala program at Roy Thomson Hall will offer first-time gender parity in Toronto as 50 percent of the titles are directed or co-directed by women.

Elsewhere, in the special presentations sidebar, also filled with Hollywood's prestigious product for awards season contention, TIFF programmers booked international premieres for Edward Norton's passion project Motherless Brooklyn, starring Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin and Willem Dafoe, and Robert Eggers' The Lighthouse, also starring Willem Dafoe, along with Robert Pattinson; a North American debut for Steven Soderbergh's Panama Papers thriller The Laundromat, toplined by Gary Oldman and Meryl Streep; Armando Iannucci's The Personal History of David Copperfield, set to open the London Film Festival and starring Dev Patel; and an international premiere for Scott Z. Burns' The Report, which bowed at Sundance.

The Special Presentations sidebar is filled with flashy Hollywood titles likely to debut in either Venice or Telluride, before heading to Canada. Also booked into the prestigious sidebar are world bows for Rian Johnson's murder mystery Knives Out, featuring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Lakeith Stanfield and Michael Shannon; Michael Winterbottom's Greed; Cory Finley's family drama Bad Education, starring Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney; and Craig Brewer's Dolemite Is My Name, toplined by Keegan-Michael Key and Eddie Murphy and also bound for Netflix.

The Special Presentations sidebar will also screen Drake Doremus' Endings, Beginnings; Alma Har'el's Honey Boy; Ira Sachs' Frankie; Atom Egoyan's Guest of Honor; Rupert Goold's Judy; Peter Cattaneo's Military Wives; Nicolas Bedos' La Belle Epoque, from France; and Taika Waititi's Jojo Rabbit, perennial awards magnet Fox Searchlight's dark comedy about a young boy whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler (played by Waititi).

Joana Vincente, co-head of TIFF, told THR that Jojo Rabbit, to receive a world premiere at the fest, "is an incredibly original and touching film about humanity."

Toronto, as in previous years, has battled for world premieres with Venice and Telluride for awards-season bragging rights. TIFF last year prevailed with the exclusive premiere of eventual best picture Oscar winner Green Book, which earned director Peter Farrelly the top audience award at the fest.

There's no word as yet from TIFF on a possible slot for Canne Palme d'Or winner Hirokazu Kore-eda's The Truth, which will open Venice and stars Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Ludivine Sagnier and Ethan Hawke.

Other titles set for special presentations screenings include Wayne Wang's Coming Home Again; Uncut Gems, a crime comedy from directors Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie and starring Adam Sandler, Julia Fox and Kevin Garnett;  William Nicholson's Hope Gap, featuring Annette Bening and Bill Nighy; and Unjoo Moon's Helen Reddy movie I Am Woman.

There are Canadian premieres for Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story for Netflix, starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson; Pedro Almodovar's Pain and Glory, which bowed in Cannes; Korean creature-feature maestro Bong Joon-ho's Parasite; and The Two Popes, Fernando Meirelles’ papal drama and awards season contender, with Anthony Hopkins to star as Pope Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce as Pope Francis I.

TIFF last week announced Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band, a feature documentary about the legendary musician and founding member of the influential group from director Daniel Roher, will kick off the glitzy festival as its opening-night film.

The Toronto International Film Festival will make additional lineup announcements in the coming weeks.