TIFF 2017: Films by George Clooney, Darren Aronofsky, Greta Gerwig and Guillermo del Toro among festival lineup

Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier's Tragically Hip doc is also playing, but this year's festival opener remains a mystery


Speculation about the opening night gala for the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival reached a fever pitch this morning at the festival’s initial press conference – and then tipped over into whatever follows a fever as co-directors Piers Handling and Cameron Bailey declined to announce this year’s kickoff feature. Delirium, I guess?

Handling and Bailey made a few major announcements, naming C’est La Vie!, an upstairs-downstairs comedy from Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano (directors of the 2011 international smash The Intouchables) as this year’s closing night gala and announcing Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird and Amr Salama’s Sheikh Jackson as the films that will respectively open and close the special presentations program.

But there was no news of the festival opener. Pressed for further information at the Q&A, Bailey said TIFF will make that announcement in August, “probably around the middle of the month.” TIFF’s Canadian press conference is scheduled for August 9, so if Xavier Dolan’s wildly anticipated The Death And Life Of John F. Donovan isn’t mentioned then, it’s a good bet that’s the opener.

(Not only does it boast a lineup of TIFF all-stars like Jessica Chastain, Natalie Portman, Sarah Gadon and Jacob Tremblay, it’s Dolan’s English-language debut surely the writer/director wouldn’t be satisfied with just having it be the first Canadian film to screen this year.)

Alternate kickoff possibilities floated before the press launch, Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 and Jason Reitman’s Tully, were entirely absent from the announcement, while a pair of dark-horse contenders, Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier’s Tragically Hip documentary Long Time Running and David Gordon Green’s Stronger, a Boston Marathon drama starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany, landed in other Gala slots.

Other films announced as Galas today included Andy Serkis’s directorial debut Breathe, starring Andrew Garfield as paralyzed war veteran Robin Cavendish The Catcher Was A Spy, starring Paul Rudd as baseball player and secret agent Moe Berg Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour, in which Gary Oldman plays Winston Churchill, and Paul McGuigan’s Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool, which casts Annette Bening as screen legend Gloria Grahame.

Hany Abu-Assad’s The Mountain Between Us, a survival thriller starring Idris Elba and Kate Winslet, Haifaa al-Mansour’s Mary Shelley, with Elle Fanning as the 18-year-old who would write Frankenstein, and Susanna White’s Woman Walks Ahead, a historical drama starring Jessica Chastain as painter-turned-activist Catherine Weldon, were also announced as Galas, along with an as-yet-untitled film from director Neil Burger starring Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart.

In the Special Presentations program, Handling and Bailey welcomed a pair of recent local productions: Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape Of Water, with Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon and Octavia Spencer, Downsizing, a sci-fi comedy from Alexander Payne starring Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig and Laura Dern, and The Breadwinner, an animated adaptation of Deborah Ellis’s young adult novel set in Afghanistan.

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Luke Evans in Professor Marston & The Wonder Women

Also announced were the world premieres of Angela Robinson’s Professor Marston & The Wonder Women, which stars Luke Evans as the man who created Wonder Woman and Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcote as the women who inspired him, Craig Gillespie’s Tonya Harding film, I, Tonya, starring Margot Robbie, and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s The Current War, starring Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Tom Holland in a drama about the competition between Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult) for supremacy in the method by which electricity would be supplied to the world.

TIFF will also host the international premieres of Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton’s 70s comedy Battle Of The Sexes, starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell as Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, and Joachim Trier’s Thelma, a love story with sci-fi overtones starring Elli Harboe and Okay Kaya. We’ll also see the North American premieres of George Clooney’s Suburbicon, which casts Matt Damon, Oscar Isaac and Julianne Moore in a home-invasion thriller scripted by Joel and Ethan Coen Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!, a thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, and Martin McDonagh’s new film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which stars Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell and Abbie Cornish.

Handling and Bailey also announced Ruben Östlund’s The Square and Robin Campillo’s 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute) as Special Presentations the films won the Palme d’Or and Grand Prix respectively at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Additionally, Luca Guadagnino’s Sundance favourite Call Me By Your Name and Angelina Jolie’s First They Killed My Father will have their Canadian premieres at TIFF.

The 2017 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 7 to September 17. For full details visit www.tiff.net/tiff.

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