Time-bending mob story to open Toronto film festival

The Toronto film festival will open this year with Rian Johnson's sci-fi mob thriller "Looper" and see new works by Ben Affleck, Dustin Hoffman and Joss Whedon, organizers said Tuesday.

"I saw Rian's debut feature 'Brick' (2005) at the Sundance festival and was impressed by his ability to engage both the mind and the heart," said Toronto film festival director Cameron Bailey.

"We were fortunate enough to premiere his follow-up film 'The Brothers Bloom' (in 2008).

"Now, with 'Looper,' Rian has taken his filmmaking to a new level, and we can't wait to present it to the Toronto audience in the most prestigious platform we can offer. This is a new kind of opening night: an exciting, thinking-person's action film from a director who really understands the genre."

The American director's third feature film starring Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, and Jeff Daniels recounts the fantastical tale of a time-traveling hired gun who mops up 30 years in the past for the mob until his bosses send back his future self (Bruce Willis) for assassination.

It is the first science fiction film to open the Toronto film festival, which has in the recent past opened with a U2 rockumentary, a hockey musical, a Charles Darwin biopic, and a World War I epic.

North America's largest film festival, which runs from runs from September 6 to 16, will also feature the "most diverse" gala presentations to date from Japan, China, India, Britain, Denmark, Italy, The United States and Canada.

The new fare also includes a father's hunt for his missing daughter in Damascus in Canadian director Ruba Nadda's "Inescapable," Ben Affleck's "Argo" about six Americans's escape after militants storm the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, and the British royals' 1939 plea to US president Franklin Roosevelt (Bill Murray) for support as war with Germany is imminent in "Hyde Park on Hudson."

The Toronto film festival is the biggest in North America and has traditionally been a key event for Oscar-conscious studios and distributors.

Unlike the Cannes and Berlin festivals, Toronto does not have an official competition or award jury prizes, but an audience prize is handed out and the winners often go on to win big at the Academy Awards.

Billy Bob Thornton will also unveil "Jayne Mansfield's Car," while Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski explore how a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution in "Cloud Atlas," starring Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent and Hugh Grant.

Whedon, meanwhile, takes a jab at Shakespeare's classic comedy "Much Ado About Nothing," with a contemporary spin.

And Hoffman makes his directorial debut with the high-drama comedy "Quartet," starring Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins as four retired opera singers.

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