Toronto Film Festival: Nine rising stars to watch

By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter at the Toronto Film Festival

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The Toronto skyline offers a dramatic backdrop to its annual film festival

Some of the movie world's biggest stars will be in Toronto this week as the Canadian city's annual film festival embarks on its latest edition.

Alongside them will be some rising stars and relative newcomers who are already generating buzz in the build-up to this year's Hollywood awards season.

Here are a few of the names to look out for.

Jessie Buckley

Image source, TIFF

Coming second on I'll Do Anything was a blessing in disguise for 29-year-old Buckley, who might have been lost to musical theatre had she won the BBC One reality show in 2008.

Instead the Irish-born Rada graduate concentrated on acting, going on to appear in War and Peace, Taboo and The Woman in White for the BBC as well as compelling Jersey-set thriller Beast.

Wild Rose, a musical tale set in Glasgow that has its world premiere in Toronto on Saturday, could be her biggest success to date.

Directed by Tom Harper, it tells the story of Rose-Lynn Harlan, a single mother and convicted criminal who dreams of becoming a Nashville star.

Dame Julie Walters and Sophie Okonedo co-star in the film, which reaches UK cinemas on 8 February.

Image source, TIFF

Oscar-nominated earlier this year for Call Me By Your Name, 22-year-old Chalamet could go one better in 2019 thanks to his latest drama Beautiful Boy.

Based on a pair of memoirs written by father and son David and Nic Sheff, the film sees him play a young man who becomes addicted to methamphetamine.

Steve Carell plays Chalamet's concerned father in Felix van Groeningen's film, which premieres in Toronto on Friday ahead of its UK release in January.

Image source, TIFF

Having appeared as a young spy in the Kingsman films, 28-year-old Cookson is no stranger to the murky world of espionage.

That makes her perfect for Red Joan, a fact-inspired drama that draws on the life of Melita Norwood, the woman revealed in 1999 to be the longest-serving Soviet spy in Britain.

Dame Judi Dench and Cookson play the film's main character at different ages in her life in Sir Trevor Nunn's film, which premieres in Toronto on Friday.

The film reaches UK cinemas next April.

Image source, AFP

Theatre lovers will need no introduction to 31-year-old Londoner Erivo, whose performance in the musical version of The Color Purple won her a Tony in 2016.

Soon, though, the whole world will become aware of her talents thanks to her upcoming role in Steve McQueen's heist drama Widows.

Based on Lynda La Plante's 1980s TV series, the film sees Erivo play one of four bereaved women who turn to crime when their husbands are killed.

Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki and Michelle Rodriguez are the other female leads in a Chicago-set thriller that opens in the UK on 6 November after opening the London Film Festival on 10 October.

Image source, TIFF

Oscar-nominated in 2017 for Manchester by the Sea, Hedges went on to play supporting characters in two of this year's best film contenders - Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Leading man status surely beckons for the 21-year-old son of director Peter Hedges, bolstered no doubt by his performances in two Toronto premieres.

In Boy Erased, he plays the son of a Baptist pastor (Russell Crowe) who, together with his wife (Nicole Kidman), forces him to undergo gay conversion therapy.

Ben is Back, meanwhile, casts him as a recovering heroin addict who surprises his mother (Julia Roberts, above) with an unannounced Christmas visit.

There's no confirmed UK release date yet for Ben is Back, but Boy Erased will be out in the UK in February.

Image source, Entertainment One

Barry Jenkins' follow-up to the Oscar-winning Moonlight looks set to offer an incandescent showcase for 26-year-old Layne in what is her first film to date.

Based on the novel by James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk casts her as Tish, a newly pregnant young woman in 1970s Harlem whose fiance is falsely accused of rape.

Toronto native Stephan James co-stars in the film, which premieres in Toronto on Sunday and reaches UK cinemas on 18 January.

Image source, Getty Images

Gary Hart's 1988 bid to be his party's presidential candidate was spectacularly derailed by an alleged extramarital affair with a model called Donna Rice.

His story is now being retold in The Front Runner, in which Hugh Jackman plays Hart, Vera Farmiga his wife and Sara Paxton Rice.

Rice is a potentially eye-catching role for Paxton, a former child actor who's probably best known for playing the titular mermaid in 2006's Aquamarine.

Jason Reitman's film premieres in Toronto on Friday and reaches UK cinemas in January.

Image source, TIFF

Best known for playing Rue in the first Hunger Games film, 19-year-old Stenberg made headlines earlier this year by coming out as gay in a magazine interview.

More headlines should follow thanks to her roles in two Toronto titles - novel adaptation The Hate U Give, and World War II drama Where Hands Touch.

The Hate U Give sees Stenberg play a teenage girl who is the only witness to the fatal police shooting of her unarmed best friend.

(Her casting in the film version of Angie Thomas's young adult novel has not been welcomed by all, with some complaining she has a lighter complexion than the character in the book.)

In Where Hands Touch, directed by Britain's Amma Asante, she plays a biracial teen in Nazi Germany who falls in love with a member of the Hitler Youth.

The Hate U Give comes out in the UK on 26 October. There's no UK release date yet for Where Hands Touch.

Image source, TIFF

Worthington-Cox, the only Brit on this year's list of TIFF Rising Stars, is no stranger to recognition.

In 2012, at the age of 10, she became the youngest recipient to date of an Olivier award for her lead role in Matilda the Musical, a prize she shared with three other actresses.

Now 17, the Bafta-nominated star of The Enfield Haunting and Britannia comes to Toronto in Gwen, a rural drama set in 19th Century Wales.

Earlier this year she said "a lot of love (and mud) went into" William McGregor's supernaturally-tinged tale of a farming family struggling to survive.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs from 6 to 16 September.

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