Actor Brad Pitt comes to TIFF to promote his new film, Babel. (Carlo Allegri\Getty Images)
Who: Adrian Grenier
What: The star of HBO’s testosterone-charged buddy comedy Entourage makes his directorial debut with Shot in the Dark, a documentary about his search for his estranged father.
What’s at stake: A hit at TIFF could prove that Grenier is more than just a pretty face. On the other hand, this could be another wanky vanity project by a TV actor (see: Braff, Zach).
Who: Brad Pitt
What: The new father stars in Babel, an epic study of anxiety and tragedy by 21 Grams director Alejandro González Iñárritu.
What’s at stake: Er, does Mr. Angelina Jolie actually need any more good press?
Who: Ed Harris
What: Harris plays the volatile genius composer in Agnieszka Holland’s biopic Copying Beethoven.
What’s at stake: Apropos of nothing, Harris slammed his fist on the table, shouted “What is this?” and threw his water glass against the wall during last year’s press conference for A History of Violence. Let’s start placing bets to see what he’ll get up to this year.
Who: Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire, Emily Robison — a.k.a. The Dixie Chicks
What: Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck’s documentary The Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing! was inspired by the controversy over the Texan trio’s anti-Bush comments.
What’s at stake: At the peak of their popularity, the Chicks were the top-selling female artists of all time and the queens of country music. Their unexpected and unapologetic anti-war stance has alienated many of their core fans, got them blacklisted them from radio playlists and elicited death threats. These gals have nothing left to lose.
After receiving acclaim at Cannes, Penelope Cruz lands in Toronto with the Pedro Almodovar film Volver. (MJ Kim/Getty Images)
Who: Penelope Cruz
What: Cruz stars in Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar’s no-frills domestic drama Volver.
What’s at stake: Her lovely turn as a nun in Almodovar’s All About My Mother bodes well for another collaboration. And these days, being an ex of Tom Cruise is an excellent career move.
Who: Heath Ledger
What: Ledger plays a heroin-addicted poet in the Australian indie film Candy, which marks the end of a 15-year career hiatus by Aussie director Neil Armfield (Twelfth Night, The Castanet Club).
What’s at stake: After his career-defining and Oscar-nominated role as a laconic gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain, this small art-house offering seems like an odd choice for Ledger. Is it an eccentric artist thing? A desire to work on a hometown project? Or is he a rare actor who actually wants a lower profile?
Who: Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony
What: Real-life husband and wife star in El Cantante, a biopic about salsa legend Hector Lavoie.
What’s at stake: Since their courtship, the high-wattage couple has kept an uncharacteristically low profile. The fans’ response could be: out of sight, out of mind.
Who: Jude Law, Mark Ruffalo and Sean Penn
What: Penn stars as a Huey P. Long-like Southern politician in Steve Zaillian’s new adaptation of the Robert Penn Warren novel All the King’s Men. Law is his long-suffering sidekick, and Ruffalo rounds out a supporting cast of stars that requires its own solar system: Kate Winslet, James Gandolfini, Patricia Clarkson and Anthony Hopkins.
What’s at stake: Law might finally get more attention for his career than his tempestuous love life. Ruffalo might find his way back to his former You Can Count On Me glory after a string of boring boyfriend roles (Just Like Heaven, Rumor Has It, 13 Going On 30). And Penn can always be relied upon to dazzle with his acting and provoke with his political opinions — like his recent admission that he enjoys torturing an effigy of conservative columnist Ann Coulter.
Who: Emilio Estevez
What: The Mighty Ducks star writes, directs and appears in Bobby, an ensemble drama about Senator Robert Kennedy’s assassination.
What’s at stake: The large, motley cast offers something for everyone, but does anyone really want to sit through a film with both Sharon Stone and Lindsay Lohan?
Who: Peter O’Toole
What: The legendary Lawrence of Arabia star plays a dying Casanova in love with his best friend’s diamond-in-the-rough grandniece in Venus, a companion piece to 2003’s The Mother from director Roger Michell and writer Hanif Kureishi.
What’s at stake: His wry, wrenching performance might finally earn the seven-times-nominated actor that elusive Oscar.
Reese Witherspoon will be in Toronto playing the producer role with her new film, Penelope. (Winter/Getty Images)
Who: Reese Witherspoon
What: Last year’s Oscar winner for Walk the Line produces and plays a supporting role in Penelope, a romantic fable about class and celebrity starring Christina Ricci.
What’s at stake: The young actress with an old-fashioned, dignified presence has always been an intriguing anomaly in Hollywood, where good female roles are still hard to find. Her move to a producing role might signal a new direction for Witherspoon’s career.
Who: Russell Crowe
What: The telephone-throwing bad boy stars in Ridley Scott’s A Good Year, about a successful London financier who abandons the fast lane for an French idyll at a Provencal vineyard.
What’s at stake: Pro: It’s Under the Tuscan Sun for dudes, dude! Con: But were dudes really sitting around thinking, “You know what would be really cool? If the Diane Lane role were played by Russell Crowe”?
Who: Tom Hanks
What: Producer of the U.K. coming-of-age comedy Starter for Ten starring James McAvoy.
What’s at stake: As the star of The Da Vinci Code, Hanks faired well with audiences, but not the critics – the Hollywood nice guy was even booed at Cannes. But his Playtone production company is a respected hit maker, with the crowd-pleaser My Big Fat Wedding under its belt and the much-anticipated adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are due in 2008.
Who: Will Ferrell
What: Playing an uptight IRS auditor, Ferrell co-stars with Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman in Stranger Than Fiction, an Adaptation-like dramedy from Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland).
What’s at stake: After the career sag of Curious George, The Producers and Bewitched, Ferrell has redeemed himself as a comedic star with Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby. Fellow funnymen Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler have struggled to remake themselves as serious leading men. So how will Ferrell — who displayed fine dramatic chops in 2005’s little-seen Winter Passing — handle the darker material?
Who: Vince Vaughn
What: The motor-mouthed and rubber-lipped actor is the hub of the comedy road-trip documentary Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show.
What’s at stake: Sure, he’s here to promote the doc, but isn’t everyone really more interested in seeing what happens if he crosses paths with Brad Pitt?
Rachel Giese writes about the arts for CBC.ca.
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