Best of Hollywood at Toronto Film Festival

Roll out the red carpet, bring on the Beautiful People and let the air-kissing begin—the Toronto International Film Festival kicks off this week.

For 10 glittering days, Hollywood glamour and stardust settles on Toronto for a festival considered one of the world’s most important, along with Cannes, Venice and Berlin.

The festival is turning the spotlight on itself this year to commemorate its 25th anniversary. But it will have to share that limelight with a bevy of Hollywood stars such as Robert DeNiro, Gwyneth Paltrow, Al Pacino, Kenneth Branagh, Richard Gere, Liv Ullman, Cuba Gooding Jr., Robert Duvall and directors such as South Korean legend Im Kwontaek, Cameron Crowe, Ang Lee and Robert Altman.

The result will be an eclectic mix of Hollywood star power, independent film grit and good old-fashioned schmoozing and deal making.

“It may be the most outstanding list of people I’ve seen at this festival. When you have Pacino, DeNiro, Duvall, Branagh, you’re dealing with the top of the tops. And these are just the actors,” festival director Piers Handling said in an interview.

“There’s not too many films without people [attending] … It doesn’t get much better than this.”

The festival, which runs from September 7 to 16, opens with a gala presentation of Canadian director Denys Arcand’s Stardom which closed the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.

New Cameron Crowe Project Featured

Before the event ends on September 16, moviegoers will have been treated to a feast of 329 films, including a record 178 world and North American premiers, as well as glimpses of their favorite actors.

Films making their world premieres include Cameron Crowe’s Untitled Cameron Crowe Project starring Oscar-winners Frances McDormand and Anna Paquin; The Contender with Gary Oldman, Joan Allen, Jeff Bridges and Christian Slater; and The Luzhin Defence with John Turturro and Emily Watson.

The large number of premieres attracts industry buyers from around the world who are eager to make distribution deals.

More than 40 films were sold during last year’s event, according to Kelley Alexander, director of the festival’s sales office, but the values of deals are kept strictly under wraps.

Alexander added that 700 buyers and sales agents have registered with the festival this year as well as 32 new companies from 27 countries. France alone, which has a history of acquiring numerous films in Toronto, has 39 companies registered.

“The deals that are done during the festival itself probably don’t amount to that much,” Handling said. “But often all of the discussions start here, deal memos are done here and the actual contracts aren’t signed till after the festival.”

2000 Festival Marks Silver Anniversary

As part of this year’s silver anniversary, a special tribute will be given to British director Stephen Frears, maker of films such as My Beautiful Laundrette, The Grifters, and the recent High Fidelity — the first such tribute since 1984 when Warren Beatty was honored.

British actor Branagh’s How to Kill Your Neighbor’s Dog — a comedy about a Los Angeles-based playwright who’s fallen on hard times, which also stars Lynn Redgrave — will close the festival on September 16.

This year, Toronto also plans to salute itself with a slew of special events to commemorate the festival’s 25 years on the scene.

Since its inception in 1976, the Toronto International Film Festival has shown nearly 6,000 films, excluding this year’s slate. Almost 300 of them have gone on to garner Academy Award nominations.