Jon Amiel's biopic on Darwin kicks off event

TORONTO — Jon Amiel’s Charles Darwin biopic “Creation” will open the 34th Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 10.

“This intimate look at Darwin puts a human face on a man whose theory remains controversial to this day,” said Toronto fest director and CEO Piers Handling, adding that this year marks the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth.

Produced by Jeremy Thomas, pic stars Paul Bettany as the English scientist and author of “The Origin of Species” and Jennifer Connelly as his wife Emma. John Collee’s screenplay is adapted from “Annie’s Box,” penned by Darwin great-great-grandson Randal Keynes, about the scientist’s struggle with the death of his daughter Annie and his religious views. Thomas’ Recorded Picture Co. developed the project with BBC Films and the U.K. Film Council.

Fest also has added three galas and 19 special presentations to its 2009 lineup so far.

Pics getting the gala treatment are Aaron Schneider’s “Get Low,” a world-premiere drama set in 1930 Tennessee and starring Robert Duvall, Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek; Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg’s “Max Manus,” a biopic about the Norwegian resistance fighter; and Lee Daniels’ Sundance winner “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.”

Special presentation world premieres include Neil Jordan’s fisherman fairy tale “Ondine,” starring Colin Farrell; Brian Koppelman and David Levien’s “Solitary Man,” toplining Michael Douglas; Jordan Scott’s boarding-school drama “Cracks,” with Eva Green; Tim Blake Nelson’s “Leaves of Grass,” starring Edward Norton; Nicolas Winding Refn’s Viking saga “Valhalla Rising”; Niki Caro’s romance “The Vintner’s Luck”; Raoul Peck’s political thriller “Moloch Tropical”; and Bruce Beresford’s “Mao’s Last Dancer,” with Kyle MacLachlan and Joan Chen. U.S. rights to all these pics are available.

Other world preems are Warner Bros. comedy “The Invention of Lying,” co-helmed and co-written by Ricky Gervais (who also stars) and Matthew Robinson, and Miramax’s “The Boys Are Back,” helmed by Scott Hicks and starring Clive Owen.

Among the special presentations announced that are not world premieres: Steven Soderbergh’s “The Informant!” (North American preem), Jane Campion’s Cannes competitor “Bright Star”; Rachid Bouchareb’s Berlin preemer “London River”; Bong Joon-ho’s Cannes entry “Mother”; Yousry Nasrallah’s “Scheherazade Tell Me a Story”; Bruno Dumont’s “Hadewijch”; and Catherine Corsini’s “Partir,” starring Kristin Scott Thomas.

Toronto will make additional lineup announcements every Tuesday through Aug. 18, with a final roundup on Aug. 20.

Fest runs Sept. 10-19.

(Sharon Swart in Hollywood contributed to this story.)

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