Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall helped kick off the Toronto International Film Festival in red carpet style Thursday at the gala presentation of David Dobkin's The Judge.

The Hollywood heavyweights team up in the father-son courtroom drama. Downey stars as a big-city lawyer who returns home to bury his mother, only to find himself defending his estranged father — a small town judge played by Duvall —who is charged with murder.

Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall in The Judge

The Judge stars Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall as a troubled father-and-son pair. (TIFF)

It’s an unusual circumstance, but the conflict offers the men a chance to end decades of drama. In an interview with CBC Arts reporter Zulekha Nathoo, Robert Downey Jr. said the complicated parent-child dynamic was something he could empathize with.

"I just love that there's so many people that are grown up and still act like kids around their folks. There’s some part of that relationship that was halted or there's some unrequited aspect to it and certainly I can relate to that."

Now in its 39th year, TIFF boasts serious clout as a launch pad for awards season. And being selected for the opening night slot can be a big boost for a film’s profile. In an interview Thursday with CBC News anchor, Heather Hiscox, TIFF CEO Pierce Handling described why programmers chose The Judge as the first film of the festival.

"It’s a big film with wonderful actors," explained Handling. "It fills the screen and you want something that’s emotional that’s going to resonate with an audience, and I think it’s going to go on to nominations, to be honest."

The Judge hits theaters Oct. 10.

No taxi for Al Pacino

Elsewhere in the city, fans lined up to catch a glimpse of another icon of American cinema: Al Pacino.

Al Pacino and Lucila Sola

Fans screamed as Al Pacino (right) and his girlfriend Lucila Sola stepped from their limo Thursday at the premiere for the film The Humbling at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

The Hollywood powerhouse stepped from his limo with his girlfriend, Lucila Sola, for the North American premiere of The Humbling. Pacino plays over-the-hill stage actor, Simon Axler, in the big screen adaptation of Philip Roth’s 2009 novel. The supporting cast features familiar faces like Francis Ha’s Greta Gerwig, Edward Scissorhands's Dianne Wiest and The Closer’s Kyra Sedgwick.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs through Sept. 14.

Get all TIFF 2014 news on our CBC Arts topics page here: