Battling biographies head to Toronto to win awards season hearts

Tue Sep 2, 2014 8:13am EDT
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By Mary Milliken

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As a first-time film director, television comedian Jon Stewart pleads ignorance about the workings of the movie industry.

But as he heads to the Toronto International Film Festival this week, he shares many of the feelings of more seasoned directors: excitement, nausea and the hope that he has done justice to the man whose story he depicts in film.

"The Daily Show" host's film is "Rosewater," the real-life story of journalist Maziar Bahari and his five months of torture and interrogation in an Iranian prison at the hands of a man who smells of rosewater.

"I felt like Maziar was really trusting me with something that was very personal to him," said Stewart. "I have tremendous affection and respect for the guy and I wanted to do right by it."

Stewart's debut is one of several highly anticipated biographical films to feature at the Toronto festival that runs Sept. 4-14 and is considered the kick-off to a six-month awards season that concludes with the industry's top honors, the Academy Awards.

There is the story of cosmologist Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything," the portrayal of British World War II code-breaker Alan Turing in "The Imitation Game," and "Pawn Sacrifice" about American chess champion Bobby Fischer and his 1972 match against Russian rival Boris Spassky.

In the women's camp, Reese Witherspoon stars in "Wild," based on the best-selling memoir of Cheryl Strayed, a self-destructive woman who treks solo across 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of wilderness.

Biographies are "catnip for the Academy," says Keith Simanton, managing editor of movie website IMDb.   Continued...

Comedian Jon Stewart speaks during the "12-12-12" benefit concert for victims of Superstorm Sandy at Madison Square Garden in New York in this file photo from December 12, 2012. "The Daily Show" host, and now film director brings his first film, "Rosewater" to the Toronto International Film Festival this week.   REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Files