Hockey Sensation, Redford, Eastwood Highlight Toronto Festival

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Ryan in "Jack Goes Boating." Hoffman makes his directing debut in an adaptation of an off-Broadway play in which he plays a lonely limo driver. Photographer: KC Bailey/Overture Films via Bloomberg

Woody Allen, Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood and Ben Affleck head the list of actor/directors who will be showing their new movies at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, which opens tonight with a musical about hockey.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Emilio Estevez, David Schwimmer, Casey Affleck and John Turturro also have directed movies that will screen in Toronto, the host of North America’s most prestigious film festival.

The 11-day event, which has become an important springboard for Oscar contenders, will include 258 features from 59 countries. It opens with “Score: A Hockey Musical,” the story of a teenage hockey phenom who becomes an overnight sensation. Olivia Newton-John co-stars and hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s dad, Walter, has a cameo.

Allen’s “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” follows a pair of unhappy London couples as they experiment with new mates. It stars Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins and Naomi Watts.

Redford’s “The Conspirator” is based on the true story of Mary Surratt, the only woman executed as part of the plot to kill President Abraham Lincoln. Robin Wright plays Surratt, while James McAvoy portrays the young Civil War hero who serves as her defense attorney.

“The Town,” the second feature directed by Ben Affleck, is a crime thriller about a Boston thief who falls in love with the manager of a bank he robbed. Affleck stars along with Rebecca Hall and Jon Hamm of “Mad Men.”

Spanish Pilgrimage

“Hereafter,” directed by Eastwood and written by Peter Morgan (“The Queen,” “Frost/Nixon”), tells the intersecting stories of three people affected by the Grim Reaper. The cast includes Matt Damon, Bryce Dallas Howard and Jay Mohr.

Hoffman makes his directing debut in “Jack Goes Boating,” an adaptation of an off-Broadway play in which he plays a lonely limo driver. Estevez’s entry, “The Way,” stars his father, Martin Sheen, as an American doctor who embarks on a pilgrimage in Spain after his son dies in a storm while making the trek. Schwimmer’s “Trust” is about a family dealing with the rape of their teenage daughter by an online pedophile. Clive Owen and Catherine Keener play the parents.

Casey Affleck, Ben’s younger brother, comes to Toronto with “I’m Still Here,” a documentary about Joaquin Phoenix’s strange (possibly fake) transition from actor to hip-hop singer. Turturro’s “Passione” is a film about the music of Naples, Italy.

Spitzer Sex Scandal

Other notable documentaries include “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer,” Alex Gibney’s account of the sex scandal that toppled the former New York governor; “Inside Job,” Charles Ferguson’s explanation of what caused the financial crisis; and “Tabloid,” Errol Morris’s film about a former Miss Wyoming who kidnapped a Mormon missionary in England and had her dog cloned in South Korea.

Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Helen Mirren, Hilary Swank and Marion Cotillard are among the Oscar winners appearing in films at the festival.

De Niro and Edward Norton co-star in “Stone,” the story of an arsonist who tries to manipulate a parole officer to get early release from prison. Hoffman plays the father of Paul Giamatti in “Barney’s Version,” which stars Giamatti as an elderly TV producer looking back on his wild life.

Freeing Prisoner

In “Conviction,” Swank plays a high-school dropout who gets her law degree so she can help free her brother from prison. Mirren stars in “The Debt,” a thriller about Israeli secret agents assigned to capture a Nazi war criminal. Cotillard’s “Little White Lies” is about a group of French friends who quarrel on their annual beach vacation.

The festival’s new downtown headquarters, TIFF Bell Lightbox, will officially open on Sept. 12. The five-story, state-of-the-art complex includes five theaters, three learning studios, two galleries, a student/scholar center, two restaurants and a lounge.

(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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