Madonna directs a film inspired by the romance between King Edward VIII and American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
George Clooney directs and co-stars in a political thriller, Brad Pitt plays an innovative baseball general manager and rock legends U2, Pearl Jam and Neil Young headline a stellar list of music documentaries.
Those are among the highlights of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, which opens tomorrow with the U2 movie “From the Sky Down.”
North America’s largest film festival, which runs through Sept. 18, will screen 336 films from 65 countries. They range in length from one-minute shorts to the 15-hour epic, “The Story of Film: An Odyssey.”
“The international scope and diversity of voices ... are impressive and inspiring,” Piers Handling, the festival’s director and chief executive officer, said in a statement.
Madonna’s “W.E.,” her second directing effort, is a time-jumping film centering on two women involved in complicated romances.
Abbie Cornish plays an unhappily married present-day New Yorker who obsesses about the famous love affair between Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and Edward (James D’Arcy), who abdicated his throne in 1936 to marry the American divorcee.
Cornish’s character falls in love with a Russian security guard while discovering that the royal marriage she idealizes wasn’t as idyllic as she thought.
Clooney’s “The Ides of March” centers on a scandal that threatens to derail a presidential candidate’s bid for the White House. Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman round out the heavyweight cast.
Clooney also stars in “The Descendants,” Alexander Payne’s dramedy about a neglectful father forced to re-examine his life after his wife is left comatose by a boating accident in Hawaii.
In “Moneyball,” based on Michael Lewis’s best-seller, Pitt plays Oakland GM Billy Beane, whose use of a new statistical formula for evaluating players helps the Athletics compete with much richer teams. The film is directed by Bennett Miller, whose “Capote” won an Oscar for Hoffman.
The three big music documentaries were all made by prominent directors. “From the Sky Down” was directed by Davis Guggenheim, who won an Oscar for “An Inconvenient Truth.” Jonathan Demme presents “Neil Young Journeys” and Cameron Crowe is debuting “Pearl Jam Twenty.”
Ralph Fiennes makes his directing debut with “Coriolanus,” an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play about an exiled Roman general who seeks revenge against the city. Fiennes plays the title character and Gerard Butler is the arch-enemy who becomes his ally.
Francis Ford Coppola and William Friedkin, filmmakers whose careers peaked in the 1970s, are coming to town with new crime dramas.
Coppola’s “Twixt” stars Val Kilmer as a horror writer who gets involved in a murder mystery during a book tour. Bruce Dern plays a small-town sheriff, Elle Fanning is a ghost and Ben Chaplin appears as Edgar Allan Poe. In case that’s not weird enough for you, Tom Waits narrates.
“Killer Joe,” Friedkin’s first feature in five years, is about a young drug dealer (Emile Hirsch) who hires a hit man (Matthew McConaughey) to kill his mother for her insurance money.
De Niro, Fonda
Other notable directors at the festival include Bruce Beresford (“Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding), David Cronenberg (“A Dangerous Method”), Lars von Trier (“Melancholia”) and Pedro Almodovar (“The Skin I Live In”).
Among the Oscar-winning actors with Toronto films are Robert De Niro (“Killer Elite”), Geoffrey Rush (“The Eye of the Storm”), Nicolas Cage (“Trespass”) and Anthony Hopkins (“360”). Oscar-winning actresses include Jane Fonda (“Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding”), Vanessa Redgrave (“Anonymous”), Nicole Kidman (“Trespass”) and Tilda Swinton (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”).
(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)