While the Toronto International Film Festival is mostly known for its star wattage and Oscar-bait fare, the event also serves as a springboard for up-and-coming actors to make their marks. Freida Pinto, Shailene Woodley, Dev Patel, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Oscar-nominees Ellen Page and Keisha Castle-Hughes all came to Toronto as relative unknowns and emerged as highly sought-after talents.
With the 38th edition of the festival launching tonight with the world premiere of "The Fifth Estate," we offer our picks for the ten actors to watch this year.
Daniel Brühl - "Rush" and "The Fifth Estate"
Best known stateside for his role as a devious Nazi in "Inglourious Basterds," Daniel Brühl is far from being a known name in America, despite being a bonafide celebrity in Germany thanks to the hit comedy "Good Bye, Lenin!." That's likely to change by the time this festival wraps. The actor has two close-to-lead roles in two of the highest profile films playing at the festival, Bill Condon's opening night WikiLeaks film "The Fifth Estate" and Ron Howard's race car drama "Rush." In the former, Brühl buts heads with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) as the site's former spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg, and in "Rush" he stars opposite Chris Hemsworth as Formula One drive Niki Lauda, who returns to face his rival (Hemsworth) following a catastrophic crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix. Next up for the actor is the thriller "A Most Wanted Man," starring Rachel McAdams, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Wright.
Julianne Nicholson - "August: Osage County"
Julianne Nicholson is an actress that has managed to amass a considerable amount of acclaim and visibility in the past few years through her steady work in independent film and television, with solid supporting roles in last year's acclaimed indie "Keep the Lights On" and HBO's "Boardwalk Empire." With John Wells' "August: Osage County," Nicholson gets what might be her biggest break yet on the silver screen, joining a ridiculously illustrious ensemble of actors in bringing Tracy Letts' play, in which a tragedy brings the offspring of the Weston family back to their Oklahoma hometown late in the summer, only to rekindle the dysfunction between the matriarch and patriarch. Although most of the attention had been generously paid to Hollywood stars Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, it seems inevitable that some of that buzz may rub off on Nicholson, who plays Roberts' sister.
Macon Blair - "Blue Ruin"
Macon Blair reunites with his "Murder Party" director Jeremy Saulnier for the decidedly darker "Blue Ruin," which premiered at Cannes earlier this year where it was swiftly acquired by Radius-TWC before winning the Director's Fortnight FIPRESCI prize. It makes its North American debut in Toronto. Blair, who also served as a producer on the film, is afforded his largest and juiciest role in "Blue Ruin," and kills it in an alternately unsettling and dryly hilarious performance as a wronged man out to avenge the death of his parents.
Gattlin Griffith - "Labor Day"
At the tender age of fourteen, Gattlin Griffith has already built a career many would be envious of, most notably playing Angelina Jolie's missing son in "Changeling." With Jason Reitman's "Labor Day' he takes on the role of Henry Wheeler, a young boy whose downtrodden mother (Kate Winslet) takes up with a convicted murderer (Josh Brolin). Being the film's protagonist amongst such talent is no small feat, and while some may count his age against him, let's not forget that Reitman's last film about a sixteen-year-old, a certain "Juno," ended up scoring star Ellen Page an Oscar nomination.
Lupita Nyong'o - "Twelve Years A Slave"
Being in a film with such serious and sobering subject matter will likely benefit everyone involved in "Twelve Years A Slave," but Lupita Nyong'o stands to achieve breakout status. In her first onscreen role, Nyong'o takes on the character of Patsey, described in the book as "the queen of the cotton field," her uncanny skill at picking the plant interests and impresses Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free man who finds himself conned and put into slavery. There's no doubt a plethora of harrowing ordeals her character regularly has to suffer through that should prove a tremendous showcase for Nyong'o.