Like the 33 before it, the 34th Toronto International Film Festival will boast a lot of sexy celebrity power to complement its serious lineup of films.
The 2009 guest list is topped by Oscar nominees George Clooney, Matt Damon, Ellen Page and Penelope Cruz, terrific talents who also send fans’ hearts a-flutter.
Clooney is coming in for two films. Along with Ewan McGregor, who will join him on the red carpet, Clooney co-stars in Grant Heslov’s comedy thriller The Men Who Stare at Goats. Clooney also has the lead role in Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air, the Canadian’s first film since the Oscar-nominated Juno.
Damon is attending the filmfest as the title star of Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant! Page, drawing on her Nova Scotia roots, stars in Drew Barrymore’s feature directorial debut, Whip It. Page is a small-town Texas girl who finds a way to deal with her misfit personality by joining a roller-derby league. Cruz is coming back to Toronto as the star of flamboyant filmmaker Pedro Almodovar’s latest opus, Broken Embraces.
Fest organizers announced the roster of 500-plus guests yesterday, with the usual caveat that individuals might drop out before the fest starts on Sept. 10. But the celebrity list is part of the festival’s acknowledgement that stars provide the sizzle while the films provide the substance.
The list also includes Viggo Mortensen, Liam Neeson, Keanu Reeves, Oprah Winfrey, Nicolas Cage, Jeff Bridges, singer-actress Mariah Carrey, pop star Neil Diamond and Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York.
Neeson will be on hand for the premiere of Atom Egoyan’s Chloe, the film he was shooting in Toronto when Natasha Richardson suffered her fatal accident on a ski slope north of Montreal. Neeson rushed to his partner’s side, arranged for transport to New York, and sat with her while she died of brain injuries.
Winfrey is coming in as the producer of festival entry Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire. The cast of the awkwardly titled drama includes Carey in a role that required her to strip away her glamour.
The Duchess will do the fest schmooze as co-producer of The Young Victoria, the English-language debut for Quebec filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallee of C.R.A.Z.Y. reknown. Ferguson’s daughter, the Princess Beatrice, has a small role as a lady-in-waiting.
The complete list of celebrities is pretty wild. While there is just one famous Clive — Clive Owen; and one famous David — David Duchovny; there are two famous Colins — Colin Firth and Colin Farrell; two famous Bills — Bill Nighy and Bill Murray; and five famous Michaels — filmmaker Michael Moore with actors Michael Douglas, Michael Cera, Michael Sheen and Sir Michael Caine.
Other name actors include Danny DeVito, Danny Glover, Chris Rock, Mads Mikkelsen, Peter Sarsgaard, Kevin Spacey, Rob Lowe, Willem Dafoe, Aidan Quinn, Bryan Brown, Brian Cox and Woody Harrelson.
Eccentric rapper Snoop Dogg is also on the list, as is Til Schweiger, whose career is juiced because he is on-screen today in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.
Among name actresses, Natalie Portman, Jennifer Connelly, Jennifer Garner, Julianne Moore, Eva Green, Demi Moore, Abbie Cornish, Sissy Spacek, Tilda Swinton, Ally Sheedy, Miranda Richardson, Lisa Kudrow, Isabella Rossellini, Emily Blunt, Emily Mortimer and Kristin Scott Thomas have all said yes to invitations. So did actress-director Drew Barrymore.
Besides Juno co-stars Page and Cera, celebrated Canadians include Don McKellar, Colm Feore, Elias Koteas, Jacob Tierney, Jay Baruchel, Arsinee Khanjian and Gordon Pinsent.
Among well-known directors, the guest list includes Steven Soderbergh, George Romero, Atom Egoyan, Guy Maddin, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Ridley Scott, Tyler Perry, Lee Daniels, Werner Herzog, the idiosyncratic American brothers, Joel and Ethan Coen, and Portuguese legend Manoel de Oliveira, who is 100 years old and still making films.
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