Star-studded films vie for attention in Toronto

Thu Sep 9, 2010 7:31am EDT
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By Gregg Kilday and Borys Kit

TORONTO (Hollywood Reporter) - Get ready for a high-stakes, star-packed game of musical chairs as the 35th Toronto International Film Festival gets under way Thursday.

During the next 10 days, several dozen movies -- many boasting marquee names in unexpected roles -- will be unveiled with hopes that after all the attendant music dies down, they'll find themselves in the arms of an enthusiastic domestic distributor and not be left abandoned on the sidelines.

Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart will wrestle with the death of a child in "Rabbit Hole," directed by John Cameron Mitchell. "The Conspirator," directed by Robert Redford, will offer James McAvoy as a reluctant attorney defending a woman (Robin Wright) accused of involvement in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Oscar-winning "Milk" screenwriter Dustin Lance Black will make his directorial debut with "What's Wrong About Virginia," in which Jennifer Connelly stars as a mentally ill mother. Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor will share the screen as father and son in Mike Mills' "Beginners" -- the surprise being that Plummer's character, rather late in life, is coming out of the closet.

In a change of pace, Will Ferrell will star in Dan Rush's "Everything Must Go," playing a man who resorts to staging a yard sale as his life falls apart around him. And Mickey Rourke, whose "The Wrestler" was the talk of the 2008 fest, will slip into the skin of another damaged soul, this time a down-on-his-luck trumpeter in Mitch Glazer's "Passion Play."

And that's only a sampling of the high-profile projects that will be competing for attention. But will buyers respond in kind?

Last year, with just a few exceptions -- like the Weinstein Co.'s decision to snap up "A Single Man" just hours after its Toronto debut -- no buying frenzy ever really developed. And though prospects this year appear more upbeat, there are enough question marks hovering over a number of distribution companies for even the most eager sellers to strike a cautious note.

The established players in the field are arriving at the festival with dance cards that already are fairly full.   Continued...