By Peter Knegt | Indiewire July 23, 2013 at 10:36AM
The Toronto International Film Festival has begun its annual series of program announcements that will eventually culminate in 250+ of the most anticipated films of the year screening in Canada's largest city this September. The festival will open with Bill Condon's WikiLeaks take "The Fifth Estate" and close with Daniel Schechter's "Life of Crime," starring John Hawkes, Mos Def and Jennifer Aniston.
Collectively, the 75 films that were announced today offer up performances from an incredible lineup of actors: Josh Brolin, Sandra Bullock, Nicolas Cage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jessica Chastain, George Clooney, Judi Dench, Jesse Eisenberg, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Idris Elba, Dakota Fanning, Michael Fassbender, Colin Firth, James Franco, Jennifer Garner, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hanks, Nicole Kidman, Catherine Keener, Keira Knightley, Mila Kunis, Scarlett Johannson, Laura Linney, Matthew McConaughey, Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Mark Ruffalo, Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton, Kristen Wiig, Kate Winslet and Reese Witherspoon all have films at the festival. And there's still 200 or so films left to be announced.
Among those announced are a slew of major Oscar hopefuls. John Wells' "August: Osage County," Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave," and Jason Reitman's "Labor Day" will all world premiere at the festival, bringing with them Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts ("August"), Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt ("12 Years") and Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet ("Labor Day"). All three have fall release dates pegged for awards consideration, with TIFF clearly being set up as a launching pad in that regard.
Other Oscar hopefuls making their way to TIFF include Ron Howard's "Rush," Jean-Marc Vallée's "Dallas Buyers Club," Justin Chadwick's "Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom," Stephen Frears' "Philomena" and Alfonso Cuarón's "Gravity," which was already announced as the Venice Film Festival's opener before it heads to TIFF.
Beyond the aforementioned, there's also quite a few potential breakouts that aren't set for release just yet.
Homegrown filmmaker Atom Egoyan will debut his most high-profile film yet with "Devil's Knot," starring Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, Mireille Enos and Dane DeHaan in the first narrative adaptation of the story of the West Memphis 3, in which three teenagers were wrongfully accused of killing three kids.
Richard Ayoade will follow up his TIFF premiere "Submarine" with "The Double," a comedy centered on a man (Jesse Eisenberg) who is driven insane by the appearance of his doppleganger.
"Night Moves" also stars Einseberg, and will see Kelly Reichardt follow-up her acclaimed "Meek's Cutoff" with a film centered on three environmentalists (Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Alia Shawkat) who plot to blow up a dam.
The long anticipated "Under The Skin" stars Scarlett Johannson in the story of an alien who -- in human form -- journeys through Scotland. It's directed by Jonathan Glazer, who hasn't made a film since 2004's Nicole Kidman vehicle "Birth."
Liza Johnson's "Hateship, Loveship" -- based on the Alice Munro novel -- stars Hailee Steinfeld as a teenage girl who orchestrates a romance between her nanny (Kirsten Wiig) and her father (Guy Pearce), who is a recovering addict.
The late James Gandolfini will have one of his final performances shown at TIFF in Nicole Holofcener's latest "Enough Said," the story of a divorced woman who decides to pursue the man she's interested in learns he's her new friend's ex-husband. It also stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Toni Collette and Holofcener staple Catherine Keener.
And just seven months after "Prince Avalanche" debuted at Sundance, David Gordon Green will offer up "Joe," about an ex-con (Nicolas Cage) who meets a 15-year-old boy (Tye Sheridan, coming off an acclaimed performance in "Mud") and is faced with the choice of redemption or ruin.
There is also batch of very notable folks making filmmaking debuts at TIFF: "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner and actors Keanu Reeves, Mike Myers and Jason Bateman (not to mention Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose "Don Jon" will make its Canadian premiere at the festival).
Weiner will see his first film "You Are Here" debut at the festival. Starring Owen Wilson, Zach Galifanakis, and Amy Poehler, the film follows two childhood best friends head on a road trip back to their hometown after one of them learns he has inherited a bunch of money from his recently deceased estranged father.
Bateman's "Bad Words" stars himself alongside Allison Janney, Rachael Harris and Ben Falcone in a film about a spelling bee loser who sets out to exact revenge by finding a loophole and attempting to win as an adult.
Toronto native Myers, meanwhile, will offer up a documentary feature in "Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon," detailing the life of talent manager Shep Gordon, who helped guide the careers of folks like Alice Cooper, Luther Vandross and Blondie.
Meanwhile, Reeves (who also grew up in Toronto), makes his debut with "Man of Tai Chi," about a young martial artist who ends up in a highly lucrative underworld fight club.
Beyond letting us know what Myers and Reeves have been up to, the lineup also gives us a good idea as to a few of the films set to head to Venice first (that fest is announcing its program later this week). We already know "Gravity" will open that festival, but the premiere status listings at TIFF suggest Reichardt's "Night Moves," Frears' "Philomena," Glazer's "Under The Skin," and Howard's "Rush" will all be joining it. "12 Years a Slave," however, will surprisingly not (McQueen's previous film "Shame" premiered there.
Head here for a full list of the announced films. The Toronto International Film Festival runs September 5-15.