Toronto 2013: British talent set to shine

A look at some of the British talents set to shine at the Toronto International Film Festival, which kicks off on Thursday with the world premiere of WikiLeaks-inspired thriller The Fifth Estate.

The drama is one of hundreds to screen at the Canadian event, one of the largest and most prestigious on the annual film festival calendar.

Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch with Carice van Houten, Daniel Bruhl and Moritz Bleibtreu in The Fifth Estate The Fifth Estate is one of three Toronto titles in which Cumberbatch (l) appears

All eyes will be on the saturnine Sherlock actor this week to see how he portrays controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Toronto opener The Fifth Estate.

The 37-year-old adopts an Australian accent and a shock of white hair to play the whistle-blowing activist responsible for the leaking of thousands of confidential documents and images.

This will not be all Toronto sees of Cumberbatch, who shares the screen with Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor in the darkly comic family drama August: Osage County.

And he also appears as a Baptist preacher in 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen's film about a free black man from upstate New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841.

Chiwetel Ejiofor

Benedict Cumberbatch and Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave Chiwetel Ejiofor appears with Benedict Cumberbatch in 12 Years a Slave

The powerful story of Solomon Northup gives the London-born Ejiofor one of the most dramatic and eye-catching roles of his career to date.

Small wonder he is already been talked about as a potential Oscar candidate for 12 Years a Slave - a film that, like Django Unchained last year, shines a spotlight on the cruelty and injustices of the slave trade.

Ejiofor will also be seen in Toronto in Half of a Yellow Sun, a drama about life in Nigeria during the civil war that gripped the west African country in the late 1960s.

The 36-year-old - rumoured to have been offered the lead in Doctor Who in 2008 - co-stars with Thandie Newton in Biyi Bandele's film of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 2007 Orange Prize-winning novel.

Idris Elba

Idris Elba with other members of the Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom cast Idris Elba stands with fist aloft in this scene from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Another Briton being tipped for awards glory is Elba, the charismatic star of The Wire, Luther and upcoming comic book sequel Thor: The Dark World.

The 40-year-old takes the title role in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, a biopic of the former South African president that dramatises his early life, his political activism and the 27 years he spent incarcerated.

Skyfall star Naomie Harris plays Winnie Mandela in Justin Chadwick's film, which has its world premiere in Toronto on 8 September.

Its debut coincides with the belated release next month of another film about Winnie, starring Jennifer Hudson in the title role, that had its premiere at Toronto two years ago.

Ralph Fiennes

Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones in The Invisible Woman Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones play the author and his mistress in The Invisible Woman

Around this time last year, Ralph Fiennes could be seen playing Magwitch in a film version of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations.

The actor continues his association with the British author by playing him in The Invisible Woman, a drama exploring Dickens's relationship with his secret lover and muse Nelly Ternan.

Fiennes also directs the BBC-funded period drama, which co-stars Felicity Jones as Nelly and Kristin Scott Thomas as her mother Catherine.

Fiennes and Scott Thomas famously appeared together in 1996 Oscar-winner The English Patient.

Colin Firth

Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman in The Railway Man Colin Firth stars alongside Nicole Kidman in The Railway Man

Three years ago, Colin Firth spent his 50th birthday attending a gala screening of The King's Speech at the Toronto Film Festival.

Tom Hooper's film went on to be a box office smash and win its star a host of accolades, among them an Oscar, a Bafta and a Golden Globe.

Firth will no doubt be hoping his new film, The Railway Man, about a British army officer haunted by his time as a Japanese prisoner of war, receives a no less rapturous reception when it premieres in Toronto on 6 September.

The British actor will also be seen at the festival in Devil's Knot, another fact-based drama exploring the case of the "West Memphis Three" - three teenagers convicted of murdering three children in Arkansas in 1993.

Keira Knightley

Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley in Can a Song Save Your Life? Knightley took tips from her husband, Klaxons star James Righton, on how to play guitar

Can a Song Save Your Life? That is the question Knightley hopes to answer in John Carney's film, which has its world premiere in Toronto on 7 September.

The 28-year-old plays an aspiring singer-songwriter who teams up with a luckless music producer, played by Mark Ruffalo, after being dumped by her rock star boyfriend.

The role of her best friend in the film will be played by fellow Brit James Corden, who will also be seen in Toronto in upbeat biopic One Chance.

The film sees Corden as Paul Potts, the former mobile phone salesman whose singing abilities saw him crowned the winner of Britain's Got Talent in 2007.

Daniel Radcliffe

Daniel Radcliffe in Horns Radcliffe filmed Horns in Canada in 2012

Fresh from appearing on the West End stage in The Cripple of Inishmaan, the former Harry Potter actor will be seen at Toronto in no less than three different guises.

Perhaps the most striking of these will be Ig, the character he plays in supernatural thriller Horns - a young man who wakes up one morning to find a pair of horns growing from his temples.

The 24-year-old will have a more conventional appearance in The F Word, a romantic comedy about a young couple negotiating the early stages of their relationship.

And Radcliffe will also be seen as Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings, a look at the so-called "Beat Generation" of US writers that has a gala screening in Toronto following its premiere at Sundance in January.

Honourable mentions

Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites in Oculus Karen Gillan and Australia's Brenton Thwaites play damaged siblings in Oculus
  • Hayley Atwell who, together with fellow rising star Imogen Poots, plays a woman in the life of the young Jimi Hendrix (Andre Benjamin, aka OutKast's Andre 3000) in music biopic All Is On My Side.
  • Former IT Crowd star Richard Ayoade, who follows up his Bifa-winning debut feature Submarine with The Double, a comedy about a man (Jesse Eisenberg) whose life is taken over by his identical doppelganger.
  • Dame Judi Dench, whose new film Philomena - about a woman who joins forces with a BBC journalist (played by Steve Coogan) to locate the son she gave up for adoption 50 years earlier - screens in Toronto one week on from its premiere in Venice.
  • Former Doctor Who assistant Karen Gillan, whose horror movie Oculus has its world premiere at Toronto as part of its popular Midnight Madness strand.
  • Sexy Beast director Jonathan Glazer, whose new film Under the Skin - about an alien in Scotland (played by Scarlett Johansson) who preys on humans - marks his first film since 2004's Birth.
  • Scottish actor James McAvoy, who appears with Jessica Chastain in two back-to-back films - The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her - that tells a love story from two different perspectives.
  • Director David Mackenzie, whose prison drama Starred Up tells of a young convict (Skins' Jack O'Connell) reunited with his father behind bars.
  • Notting Hill director Roger Michell, whose new film Le Week-end tells of an ageing British couple (Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan) spending their 30th wedding anniversary in Paris.
  • Oscar-winner Kate Winslet, who plays a single mother who lends assistance to an escaped convict (Josh Brolin) in Jason Reitman's Labor Day.

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