This year, the Toronto International Film Festival is focusing its City to City programme on one of the world’s most renowned cultural centres: London. The pairing makes sense, since London and Toronto have much in common: both are world-class hubs for film culture and media; both have recently hosted large athletic competitions; and both have amazing subway systems. (Okay, maybe London has the edge with city transit.)
Regardless, as filmmaking hubs just out of Hollywood’s grasp, England and Canada have a wealth of talented actors and directors. As Toronto prepares to welcome London’s finest new filmmakers, TFS wanted to see if we could match English and Canadian talent. Who is the Canadian counterpart to British director Danny Boyle or actor Tom Hardy? Read on to find out.
Xavier Dolan and Andrew Haigh
It’s hard to think of two Western writers/directors today making such sensitive, sly, achingly real films about the LGBT community. Dolan and Haigh are attuned to the complexities of being young and gay, telling stories about characters trying to figure out their freedoms and limitations in mainstream society. Meanwhile, both have recently left their homes (Quebec and north England, respectively) to work on projects in the United States. Haigh was a writer, director and producer on the superb, short-lived HBO drama Looking. Dolan is now directing The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, starring Jessica Chastain and Susan Sarandon. After winning two major awards at the Berlin Film Festival, Haigh’s newest drama, 45 Years, will screen at TIFF this year.
Philippe Falardeau and Ken Loach
Ken Loach is arguably England’s most prolific director. His social realist dramas deal directly with political issues his country faces, often shown through the lens of the working-class. Philippe Falardeau has a smaller filmography, but also focuses his films on the plight of working-class Canadians (The Left Side of the Fridge) and immigrants (Monsieur Lazhar). His newest film, My Internship in Canada, explores the workings of the Canadian government and deals with a contentious foreign policy issue. Loach would likely be a fan of Falardeau’s timely satire.
Ryan Gosling and Tom Hardy
Few screen actors can convey as much intensity with just a stare as London, ON’s Ryan Gosling and London, UK’s Tom Hardy. Both bring humanity to unsettling criminal characters — Gosling’s turns in The Believer and The Place Beyond the Pines or Hardy’s performance in The Drop. Both can show their vulnerable side in darker dramas like Warrior and Blue Valentine. Finally, both recently gave riveting performances behind the wheel of a car (Drive, Locke). With Gosling or Hardy in the driver’s seat, most of their films are well worth our time. It is the Englishman, however, who will be premiering his latest thriller at TIFF, starring in Brian Helgeland’s LEGEND.
Norman Jewison and Stephen Frears
These legendary directors share nine Academy Award nominations between them, as well as diverse filmographies that deal with controversial topics in accessible ways. Both broke through with stories about racism — Jewison with In the Heat of the Night and Frears with My Beautiful Laundrette. Jewison can move between genres with ease, from caper thriller (the original Thomas Crown Affair) to musical (Fiddler on the Roof). Frears also bounces from comedy (High Fidelity) to drama (Dirty Pretty Things) and back again. Jewison retired in 2003, after wrapping dramas based on true stories, most notably The Hurricane. Frears has lately found great success with that genre. After Philomena, he returns to TIFF this year with The Program, starring Ben Foster as Lance Armstrong.
Guy Maddin and Terence Davies
Maddin and Davies are routinely two of the most exciting and unconventional filmmakers to watch. The Winnipeg native and the lad from Liverpool harken back to a more classical style with several of their films. Maddin’s The Saddest Music in the World looks and sounds like films from the 1920s and ’30s. Davies’ films, such as The Long Day Closes, evoke the postwar period the director grew up in. Recently both directors earned praise for deeply personal films about their hometowns (My Winnipeg, Of Time and the City). The two are premiering their latest projects at TIFF: Davies will present his adaptation of Sunset Song, while Maddin is a co-director of The Forbidden Room.
Tatiana Maslany and Kate Winslet
Maslany and Winslet have earned rapturous reviews for their early work — even if award recognition hasn’t been as easy. Maslany portrays nearly a dozen characters on Orphan Black, and despite deafening acclaim, only earned her first Emmy nomination this summer, for the sci-fi drama’s third season. At age 31, Winslet became the youngest person in history to earn five Academy Award nominations for acting. However, she didn’t win until her sixth try, for 2008’s The Reader. Maslany’s tour de force clone portrayals prove just how multi-talented she is. Similarly, Winslet is one of cinema’s most adaptable actors, moving between characters as complex as Juliet Hulme (Heavenly Creatures, her debut) and as captivating as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’s Clementine. The Oscar winner will appear in The Dressmaker at TIFF this year.
Rachel McAdams and Rebecca Hall
Bred in two different Londons (Ontario and England), McAdams and Hall have starred in some modern classics. However, each actor is still in search of a defining screen performance. Hall broke through as a scene-stealer with supporting roles in The Prestige, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and The Town, but hasn’t found a worthwhile big screen leading role just yet. McAdams, meanwhile, has been in many lead roles, yet few show off her dramatic chops. (Her best performance was in the little-seen The Lucky Ones.) Both have garnered more acclaim on television: Hall won a BAFTA for Red Riding: 1974, while McAdams won a Gemini for Slings and Arrows, and was one of the saving graces of the lacklustre sophomore season of HBO’s True Detective. McAdams will appear in Spotlight, for director Tom McCarthy, premiering at this year’s TIFF.
Deepa Mehta and Gurinder Chadha
Quick: think of a film that examines the lives of South Asian immigrants as they adapt to a new life in North America or Europe. Odds are high you are thinking of a film from Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta or English director Gurinder Chadha. Although best known for her exceptional Elements Trilogy, Mehta’s glimpses of Indian immigrants finding cultural and social challenges in a new land (i.e., Canada) are rich and revealing. Those titles include Sam & Me and Heaven on Earth. Meanwhile, Chadha explored the clash between tradition and modernity in one of Britain’s biggest hits, 2002’s Bend It Like Beckham. That film, along with Bhaji on the Beach, shows the dynamism of British-Indian women. Mehta returns for another appearance at TIFF this year with crime drama Beeba Boys.
Ellen Page and Felicity Jones
They are responsible for two of the most shattering breakthroughs in American independent cinema. Ellen Page burned up the screen as the cunning Hayley in 2006’s Hard Candy — a role that hinted at the explosion that was to come with Juno the following year. Felicity Jones won widespread acclaim and a Sundance honour for her performance in 2011’s Like Crazy. Unfortunately, neither has received a part worthy of their talents since those starts. (Even Jones’s Oscar-nominated turn in The Theory of Everything too often played second fiddle to co-star Eddie Redmayne.) Hopefully, the future will be different. Page pulls double-duty at TIFF this fall, starring in Freeheld (opposite Julianne Moore) and Into the Forest, with Evan Rachel Wood.
Christopher Plummer and Dame Helen Mirren
It isn’t easy for two actors to reach the prime of their careers so late into their lives. For Christopher Plummer and Dame Helen Mirren, these septuagenarians likely consider the last decade to be the most fruitful of their lives. Both swept the awards circuits for their dazzling turns in Beginners and The Queen. Both returned to the stage for incredible performances that earned them Tony wins — he won for Barrymore in 1997; she won for The Audience this year. Both are constantly working, appearing in more than 40 films combined over the past ten years. (They also starred together in 2009’s The Last Station.) Expect their TIFF premieres — Plummer anchors Remember, for director Atom Egoyan; Mirren appears in Eye in the Sky and Trumbo — to quickly sell out.
Ryan Reynolds and Tom Hiddleston
While the onslaught of superhero films in recent years has become increasingly daunting, Tom Hiddleston and Ryan Reynolds inject a giddy sense of sinister fun into the proceedings. Hiddleston handily stole the show as the cunning Loki in The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World. If the Deadpool trailer is any indication, Reynolds is taking note after his botched initial portrayal and should be charming audiences with the character’s macabre wit next February. Both actors also have a capable dramatic range (see: the Canadian in Buried and the Brit in Only Lovers Left Alive). They are also appearing in two of TIFF’s most anticipated premieres: Reynolds is garnering raves for Mississippi Grind, while Hiddleston could prompt Oscar talk with his portrayal of Hank Williams in I Saw the Light.
Jean-Marc Vallée and Danny Boyle
Energetic, kaleidoscopic, humane dramas — few directors capture both the dizzying colour and sweet emotion of life with as much imagination and poignancy as Boyle and Vallée. Boyle’s kinetic style and macabre humour have helped films like Trainspotting and 28 Days Later find audiences beyond his native country. The crazy, multi-faceted protagonists in Vallée’s dramas receive treatments that explore their flaws and ferocity. To little surprise, their dazzling dramas about real-life American wanderers (127 Hours and Wild) garnered Oscar nominations. TIFF has also bolstered their projects: Slumdog Millionaire won the People’s Choice Award in 2008, while C.R.A.Z.Y. took home the Best Canadian Film award in 2005. This year, Vallée’s Demolition kicks off the festival.
Denis Villeneuve and Sam Mendes
Family secrets are a central theme in the works of Canadian auteur Denis Villeneuve and English filmmaker Sam Mendes. Incendies, directed by the former, explores a Quebec family’s disturbing history in the Middle East, while Prisoners shows the dark side of one man’s quest to find his daughter’s kidnapper. Mendes won a Best Director Oscar for exposing the twisted beauty behind the guise of suburban life in American Beauty. Their atmospheric dramas won the acclaim of many film fans and now the directors are helming action franchises: Mendes with James Bond, Villeneuve with the Blade Runner sequel. Villeneuve returns to TIFF this fall with the thriller Sicario.