The Toronto International Film Festival finalized its schedule yesterday, adding another 102 films to bring its total to 247 features. Though it’s quite possible a few stragglers will end up making the cut before the festival kicks off on September 9th, at this point it’s unlikely that most (or any) of the seven films discussed below will end up debuting at TIFF. Reasons could vary from reducing the expenses that come with premiering at a festival to not wanting to conjure up bad buzz. And it’s actually quite common for a couple of real deal awards titles to hold off from festivals and make their splashes closer to their official release date (recent best pic noms “There Will Be Blood,” “Milk” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” all come to mind).
The seven films included here are in addition to three other major films that are skipping Toronto despite screening at other fall fests: Sofia Coppola’s “Somewhere” (rumor is that Coppola is avoiding travel after the recent birth of her baby) and Julie Taymor’s “The Tempest”, which are both heading to Venice, as well as David Fincher’s “The Social Network”, which is opening the New York Film Festival. Also not on the list is Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” which has essentially been confirmed as a no-show for some time now, and thus has already been widely discussed.
So, here are seven fairly high-profile (and all American) titles that may surprise a few folks with their absence from Toronto’s final lineup:
“The Beaver,” directed by Jodie Foster
One wonders if this was a sure thing before Mel Gibson became a universal celebrity villain two months ago. This film, about a clinically depressed toy company CEO (Gibson) who uses a beaver hand puppet to communicate with his wife (Jodie Foster, who also directs) and children (Anton Yelchin and “Winter’s Bone” star Jennifer Lawrence) was already a hard sell before Gibson’s PR nightmare, and TIFF could have been a nice place to get good buzz building. Sadly, the prospects for said buzz actually looked quite good: Foster’s long-awaited directorial follow-up to 1995’s “Home For The Holidays,” the film’s script–by Kyle Killen–topped the 2008 “Blacklist,” which ranks the best unproduced screenplays. But now Gibson might have doomed Foster’s “Beaver” from ever getting the buzz it deserves.
“The Fighter,” directed by David O. Russell
Paramount opted out of getting awards season buzz-a-building for this look at the early years of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward and his brother. The film stars Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams, and Oscar hopes are extremely high for the December 10th release, which marks David O. Russell’s first film to be released since 2004’s “I Heart Huckabees” (though his Jake Gyllenhaal-Jessica Biel political comedy “Nailed” was shot before–he stepped down from that project). With so many other awards contenders heading Toronto way, perhaps its best for “The Fighter” to throw its first punch a bit later in the game.
“Love & Other Drugs,” directed by Edward Zwick
This re-teaming of Venice/Toronto premiere “Brokeback Mountain”‘s not-quite-couple Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway is based on Jamie Reidy’s memoir “Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman.” Gyllenhaal plays said Viagra salesman, who meets and falls in love with Hathaway’s character–who has Parkinson’s Disease (cue Oscar buzz). The film’s trailer has proven quite popular and buzz is already quite high. But 20th Century Fox decided to keep audiences away from “Drugs” until its November release (unless it pops up somewhere else, though that seems doubtful).
“Restless,” directed by Gus Van Sant
Van Sant’s latest began shooting last November and is reportedly in post, and IMDb has the film listed as being released next January 28th. Which could mean a Sundance premiere followed by a fairly immediate theatrical release, though that’s not very characteristic of Van Sant’s release patterns. Either way, it’s a shame that Toronto audiences won’t get a chance to watch Van Sant direct Mia Wasikowska in a story about a mortality-obsessed teenage couple who crash funerals and are regularly visited by the ghost of a Japanese kamikaze pilot.
“The Rum Diary,” directed by Bruce Robinson
Director Bruce Robinson’s “The Rum Diary” has completely avoided the festival circuit, though it completed shooting nearly a year ago. It’s certain that TIFF would have taken it had it been available, particularly because the involvement of Johnny Depp in an adaptation of a Hunter S. Thompson novel has too much curiosity attached to it for a festival to pass. And having its debut in Toronto would have made a lot of sense… unless the fear of bad buzz kept this “Diary” closed a little longer. [Correction: This blurb initially stated “The Rum Diary” screened in the Cannes Market. In fact, the film was being sold in the market, but did not screen there and has not screened anywhere to date. indieWIRE apologizes for the error.]
“True Grit,” by Joel and Ethan Coen
It’s very rare for a Coen Brothers film not to make a few festival stops before hitting theaters. In fact, the last of their films not to debut at either Sundance, Cannes, Venice or Toronto was 1990’s “Miller’s Crossing.” But, it appears “True Grit” will be an exception to that rule, likely because it only started filming this past March. Starring Coen alums Jeff Bridges and Josh Brolin, as well as first-timer Matt Damon, we’ll have to wait until Christmas to see this adaptation of the 1968 Charles Protis novel, which has already been adapted into a film once before: the 1969 Western that finally won John Wayne an Oscar.
“The Way Back,” directed by Peter Weir
Perhaps the strangest exclusion is distributor-less “The Way Back,” Peter Weir’s fact-based drama centering around a group of soldiers who escaped from a Siberian gulag in 1940. The film–which stars Colin Farrell (who usually seems to have two or three films in TIFF every year), Ed Harris and Saoirse Ronan–has generated Oscar buzz all year, but is absent from any fall fest schedule thus far. Executive produced by Oscar-magnet Scott Rudin, perhaps “Back” is headed way over to the 2011 fest circuit and away from what could be a very overcrowded awards year.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article implied that David O. Russell was still attached to “Nailed.”