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Toronto Preview: Awards Hopefuls Bring Real Figures to Life, from Dickens and Assange to Ginsberg and Mandela

Toronto Preview: Awards Hopefuls Bring Real Figures to Life, from Dickens and Assange to Ginsberg and Mandela

There’s a reason Sony Pictures Classics is moving up the release date of “The Invisible Woman” to Christmas Day. They think they may have the goods to make a go at an awards season play. This Ralph Fiennes-directed movie is world premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, one of many pictures with Oscar hopes that centers around bringing a real person to life. 

In this case, Fiennes plays controlling novelist and amateur actor Charles Dickens, who has a complicated relationship with his muse Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones), who comes from an acting family. Fiennes and Jones are joined by Kristin Scott Thomas and Tom Hollander in the film which is written by Abi Morgan (“Shame,” “The Hour”), who adapts the original novel, “The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens,” by Claire Tomalin.

SPC is also showing at TIFF John Krokidas’ Sundance biopic “Kill Your Darlings” (October), a portrait of the early life of three seminal Beat Generation writers: Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster). A sprawling cast is rounded out by Jennifer Jason Leigh, David Cross, Michael C. Hall, Elizabeth Olsen and Dane DeHaan of “Chronicle.” While the Beats have been explored recently in the Ginsberg docudrama “Howl” (2010) and the Kerouac adaptation “On the Road” (2012), “Kill Your Darlings” is being called “a genuine attempt to source the beginning of America’s first true literary counterculture.” This film is focused on a 1944 murder that brought the three budding writers together.

Dane DeHaan also takes on a role in Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan’s indie dramatization of the well-known and much-documented case of the wrongfully imprisoned West Memphis Three, who were finally set free after 18 years in jail. Based on Mara Leveritt’s 2002 book, “Devil’s Knot” was adapted by Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson and also stars Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon and Mereille Enos.

Also based on true story is Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” (October 18), which Fox Searchlight is debuting at TIFF, starring Chiwetel Echiofor in the role of Solomon Northup, a free, educated black man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841. Michael Fassbender plays his owner; also starring are Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Quvenzhane Wallis, Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, Scoot McNairy, Garrett Dillahunt, Alfre Woodard, Dwight Henry, and Michael K. Williams.

Chris Hemsworth stars as Brit playboy James Hunt in Ron Howard’s “Rush,” which Universal is releasing September 27 in time for the front-end of Oscar season. Penned by Peter Morgan (“The Queen”), the Imagine film stars Avenger Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl (“Inglourious Basterds”) as ’70s Formula 1 racing stars and arch-rivals Hunt and Austrian Niki Lauda. After he suffers a near-deadly crash, he returns to the sport to renew his intense rivalry with Hunt.

German Bruhl also takes on a role as WikiLeaks spokesman Daniel Domscheit-Berg opposite Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange in Bill Condon’s “The Fifth Estate” (DreamWorks/Disney, October 18), which co-stars Alicia Wikander (“Anna Karenina”), Carice Van Houten (“Game of Thrones”), and Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey”).

The Weinstein Co. is presenting at TIFF at least three movies based on real historic figures: Idris Elba stars as the history-changing South African leader in “Mandela: Long Walk Home” (TWC, November 29), Judi Dench stars as “Philomena” in Stephen Frears’ movie, co-written by star Steve Coogan, based on a real life adoption case; and James Corden plays Welsh miner Paul Potts in “One Chance,” the opera singer who proved himself on Britain’s Got Talent. Julie Walters and Simon Cowell co-star. (Coming out well before Toronto is “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” the four-hankie true story of a butler who served in the White House through eight presidents, starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey as his wife.)

Mia Wasikowska reenacts a real-life 1000-mile trek in Australia in “Tracks,” director John Curran’s adaptation of the Robyn Davidson memoir of the same name. It’s for sale in Toronto.

Matthew McConaughey lost 38 pounds to play straight AIDs patient and drug activist Ron Woodruff in Jean-Marc Vallee’s “The Dallas Buyer’s Club.”Jennifer Garner co-stars. Focus Features will release the film on December 6. 

Outkast’s André Benjamin inhabits the late great Jimi Hendrix in a long-in-the-works biopic that is finally coming to fruition (because it features no songs), John Ridley’s “All Is By My Side,” a film that covers the Seattle guitarist when he was struggling in London, shortly before the breakout release of “Are You Experienced.” Imogen Poots co-stars. Content Media will sell the film in Toronto.

Fox Searchlight has set a May 2014 release for the British period drama “Belle,” directed by Amma Asante who in 2005 won a BAFTA for her debut film “A Way of Life.” The film is based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw in her first starring role), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of Royal Navy Admiral Sir John Lindsey (Matthew Goode). “Belle” traces Dido’s 18th century rise in the aristocracy and the adversity she faces due to her lineage as she falls in love with a young vicar. It also stars Tom Felton, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson and Miranda Richardson.

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