Several celebrities are settling into the director’s chair and premiering their projects at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this year, including Viggo Mortensen, Michael Keaton, Chris Pine and Anna Kendrick.
Mortensen’s Canadian co-produced western titled The Dead Don’t Hurt is among the galas and special presentations announced by TIFF amid ongoing labour action in Hollywood that could change this year’s festival experience.
Meanwhile, Keaton directs and stars alongside Al Pacino in the thriller Knox Goes Away, with the Birdman actor playing a hit man in danger of losing his memory. That film — as well as Pine’s mystery/comedy Poolman, in which he co-stars with Annette Bening — will have its world premiere at the festival.
Other celebrities that are set to premiere directorial projects at TIFF are Anna Kendrick, with Woman of the Hour, and Kristin Scott Thomas, with North Star.
The festival is a key platform for Hollywood to debut its fall fare and awards hopefuls. But like the Venice Film Festival, which begins about a week before TIFF launches on Sept. 7, Toronto organizers are anxiously following the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes.
While those strikes continue, actors and writers are prohibited by their unions from promoting their films. TIFF will go forward, regardless, but an ongoing strike would sap the festival of A-listers and surely lessen the usual cacophony of buzz emanating from Toronto.
Current strike action rules would likely prevent directors who also star in their film — such as Pine and Keaton — from promoting their work as an actor, but they’d be able to speak to the media from a director’s point of view.
The strike has already led to one of Venice’s top titles — Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers, starring Zendaya — to pull out as the festival’s opening night selection and postpone its release to April.
Nevertheless, several projects from notable directors like South Korean filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda (Monster) and British director Jonathan Glazer (The Zone of Interest) will have their Canadian premieres at the festival.
Director Richard Linklater’s comedy-thriller Hitman, starring Glen Powell as a Houston cop who works undercover as a hired assassin, will have its North American premiere at TIFF.
Elliot Page, Annie Murphy among Canadian talent
Newly announced Canadian projects include Val-d’Or, Que.,-born director Sophie Dupuis’s queer romance Solo, which centres on a Montreal drag performer navigating family and relationship troubles.
Montreal-based filmmaker Chloé Robichaud’s Days of Happiness, starring Sophie Desmarais as a young orchestra conductor navigating a difficult relationship with her father-slash-agent, will have its world premiere at the fest — as will Swan Song by Langley, B.C. director Chelsea McMullan.
Also on the list is Dominic Savage’s Close to You, a Canada-United Kingdom co-production starring Elliot Page. Schitt’s Creek star Annie Murphy will be featured in Fingernails by Greek filmmaker Christos Nikou.
Several other familiar Canadian faces will appear on the big screen at TIFF this year. Craig Gillespie’s Dumb Money will co-star Seth Rogen, while Taika Waititi’s previously announced soccer comedy Next Goals Wins will star Will Arnett. Atom Egoyan’s latest film Seven Veils will feature a largely Canadian supporting cast.
Canadian rockers Nickelback will get the documentary treatment in Hate To Love: Nickelback by director Leigh Brooks, which will juxtapose the band’s wild, multi-decade success with its love/hate reputation.
TIFF says its first announcement of 2023 selections includes seven international premieres, 37 world premieres, 12 North American premieres and four Canadian premieres.