Toronto: 'Borg/McEnroe' Director Calls Shia LaBeouf "My Secret Lover" as Festival Opens

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Sverrir Gudnason and Shia LaBeouf

Janus Metz and his cast braved rain showers and cold weather on the glitzy red carpet leading into Roy Thomson Hall.

The Toronto Film Festival kicked off Thursday night with Borg/McEnroe, a Swedish-made drama about the 1980 showdown at Wimbledon between brash American John McEnroe and cool Swede Bjorn Borg.

Director Janus Metz took to the Roy Thomson Hall stage to welcome his cast, led by Sverrir Gudnason, who plays Borg, Stellan Skarsgard and Shia LaBeouf (McEnroe). Metz jokingly introduced LaBeouf as "someone who has become very dear to me during this production, my friend, my brother, my secret lover, my bulldog and my baby child."

The director also hailed his movie as a psychological thriller about "two people driving each other to the edge and beyond, and trying to find a purpose and meaning; two people driven by deep existential questions, fears perhaps; and two people on the outside, pitted against each other as perfect opposites, and who maybe shared more than most people knew."

Borg/McEnroe, which Neon will release stateside, is one of many sports-themed movies in the TIFF lineup, including Battle of the Sexes, which stars Emma Stone as Billie Jean King and Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs in another tennis match dramatization that bowed in Telluride, and I, Tonya, starring Margot Robbie as figure skater Tonya Harding accused of a true-life violent attack on fellow Olympian Nancy Kerrigan.

A host of other biopics will screen in Toronto, some with Oscar ambitions, like The Current War, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon as Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, and Andy Serkis' directorial debut, Breathe, which stars Andrew Garfield as activist Robin Cavendish. Also playing at Roy Thomson Hall this year is David Gordon Green's Boston Marathon bombing drama Stronger, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany, and Fox 2000's Idris Elba and Kate Winslet-starrer The Mountain Between Us.

Also getting red carpet treatment in Toronto is Dee Rees' Mudbound, starring Carey Mulligan and Jason Clarke and picked up by Netflix out of Sundance; a world premiere for Susana White's Woman Walks Ahead, the 19th century period drama in which Jessica Chastain plays a Sitting Bull confidante; and Ben Lewin's The Catcher Was a Spy, starring Guy Pearce and Paul Rudd.

The Toronto Film Festival, which kicks into gear on Friday, will run until Sept. 17.