The Toronto International Film Festival finalized its 36th annual lineup yesterday, with 268 features representing 68 countries. Films from George Clooney, Bennett Miller, Todd Solondz, Francis Ford Coppola, Lynn Shelton, Gus Van Sant, the Dardenne Bros., Sarah Polley, Fernando Meirelles, Werner Herzog, Nick Broomfield, Terence Davies, Lars von Trier, Marc Forster, Mary Harron, Guy Maddin, Morgan Spurlock, Wim Wenders, Pedro Almodóvar, Steve McQueen, Bruce MacDonald, Alexander Payne, Lynne Ramsay, Jay & Mark Duplass, and, yes, Madonna are all screening films at the festival.
But perhaps just as interesting are the films not heading to Toronto.
Reasons could vary from reducing the expenses that come with premiering at a festival, wanting to create discovery off the circuit, not wanting to risk buzz to simply not being ready in time. And it’s actually quite common for a few real-deal awards titles to hold off from major fall festivals and make their premieres closer to their official release dates, including recent best pic noms “There Will Be Blood,” “Milk” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”
Major studios’ Oscar titles “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” “Hugo,” “War Horse,” and “We Bought a Zoo” are all examples of this, though no one really expected any of them to ever do festival circuits (most of them wouldn’t be ready even if they wanted to).
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Below are 10 films that might have been Toronto premieres, but aren’t:
Carnage: Roman Polanki’s star-studded adaptation of the acclaimed play “God of Carnage” (by French playwright Yasmina Reza), will have its world premiere in competition at the Venice Film Festival, but opted out of heading to Toronto for its North American debut. Distributed stateside by Sony Pictures Classics, the film follows two sets of parents (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz, Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly) who meet to talk after their children have been in a fight that day at school. Rumored to have once been set for Toronto, the film is instead opening the New York Film Festival a week or so later. It’s the same slot held by “The Social Network” last year, so “Carnage” is definitely in good company with this decision.
Contagion: Another star-studded film debuting at Venice (and one that also stars Kate Winslet), Steven Soderbergh’s apocalyptic virus thriller will actually be screening in Toronto come September, just not at the festival. Opening across North America on September 9, (the festival’s second day), “Contagion” is essentially heading straight from the Lido to theaters, without making the expected exclusive stop in Canada. That excludes quite a batch of stars from walking Toronto red carpets. In addition to Winslet, the film stars Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow.
In The Land of Blood and Honey: Speaking of star power, its rare to get so much of it behind the camera as with “In The Land of Blood and Honey,” the directorial debut of Angelina Jolie (though “W.E.” might rival it in that regard). Produced by Graham King, the ambitious film is a love story set during the Bosnian War. The film was shot in two versions – one in English, the other in the Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian language known as BCS. It’s set for release on December 23 (via Film District) and given its challenging subject matter, a boost from critics at festivals would seem like a good idea. But “Blood and Honey” is missing from Toronto’s lineup (as well as Venice and New York’s), so we might have to wait until December to see what Jolie is capable of as a filmmaker.
The Iron Lady: Phyllida Lloyd’s take on former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is the only one of The Weinstein Company’s impressive remaining 2011 slate to not be making stops on the festival circuit (unless it pops up at London or AFI); sources say the filmmakers are still hard at work in post. Starring Meryl Streep as Thatcher in what is surely going to be a performance that plays into the best actress Oscar race, “The Iron Lady” is said to be narrated through a series of flashbacks, including the 17 days leading up to the Falklands War in 1982. It’s also already been drawing criticism from early viewers for portraying Thatcher as a “granny going mad”.
J. Edgar: Rumored to not have been ready for a Toronto debut, folks will have to wait until its November release date for Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar.” Starring Leonardo diCaprio as the former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, Eastwood worked from a script by Oscar-winning “Milk” scribe Dustin Lance Black. The film reported depicts Hoover’s life from the Palmer Raids onwards, including an examination of his private life as an alleged closeted homosexual. Joining diCaprio is an impressive trio: Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts and Judi Dench.
Margaret: When Fox Searchlight announced that Kenneth Lonergan’s “Margaret” would finally make it to theaters on September 30, some festival stops might have seemed likely. Originally scheduled for release in 2007, curiosity is high on the troubled film (which also marks the final release from late producers Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella). Starring Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo and Matthew Broderick, the film revolves around a New York City high school student who may have contributed to a bus accident. Whether the fact that “Margaret” is not screening in Toronto (or anywhere else) is a bad sign remains to be seen.
My Week With Marilyn: Like “The Iron Lady,” “My Week With Marilyn” is both U.K.-set and coming to America via The Weinstein Company. But it won’t be heading to Toronto. Starring Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe during a week in which she was shooting “The Prince and the Showgirl” in London, the Simon Curtis-directed film is gaining strong buzz for Williams and her co-star Kenneth Branagh, who plays Laurence Olivier. Like aforementioned “Carnage,” “Marilyn” is avoiding Toronto and instead making its world debut at the New York Film Festival, giving that festival another coup over its Canadian neighbor. It hits theaters November 4.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of the 1974 John le Carre novel “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” is getting very strong reactions from insiders, but is not heading to Canada after its Venice debut. Starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy and Mark Strong, the 1970s-set film follows George Smiley (Oldman), a man comes out of semi-retirement to uncover a Russian agent. The UK will get a chance to see “Tailor” on September 16 (just a week after Venice), but North Americans will have to hold out until Focus releases it on December 9.
Warrior: Giving Toronto an 0-2 score on nabbing Tom Hardy films, under-the-radar martial arts drama “Warrior” is hitting theaters during the festival (September 9) and avoiding the circuit altogether. Starring Hardy as the son of an alcoholic former boxer (Nolte), the film sees father train son to compete in a mixed martial arts tournament. The buzz surrounding the film has been exceptional (Hardy and Nick Nolte’s performances are said to be awards worthy), so hopefully distributor Lionsgate can fulfill its potential despite the risky early September release date.
Young Adult After premiering his first three films in Toronto (he’s called the festival’s Ryerson Theater his “good luck charm”), Canuck Jason Reitman will reverse the trend with his “Young Adult.” Reteaming Reitman with “Juno” scribe Diablo Cody, the film follows a young-adult novelist (Charlize Theron) who returns to her hometown to claim her now-married high school sweetheart (Patrick Wilson). Reitman and his family have a considerable relationship with TIFF (the square surrounding festival hub Bell Lightbox was named after them), but the festival will have to settle on his presence for the Duplass Brothers’ “Jeff, Who Lives at Home,” for which he was a producer.