“Looper,” helmer Rian Johnson’s time-travel thriller starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt, will open the 2012 Toronto Film Festival with a genre groove echoing the populist tone set by 2011 opener “From the Sky Down,” Davis Guggenheim’s U2 doc.

The TriStar/FilmDistrict pic’s prime slot was announced Tuesday morning along with 61 Gala and Special Presentation titles. Among the 39 world preems at Toronto, which runs Sept. 6-16, are new films from David O. Russell, Joss Whedon, Neil Jordan, Laurent Cantet and Deepa Mehta.

Ben Affleck’s 1970s Tehran escape thriller “Argo” (starring Affleck and Bryan Cranston) is among 11 world-preeming Galas, as are Liz Garbus’ docu “Love, Marilyn,” reflecting the Hollywood icon’s recently discovered private writings; Shola Lynch’s docu “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners”; and Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” a fractured-family story starring Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. The latter thesp gets a second spotlight in Derek Cianfrance’s “The Place Beyond the Pines,” a generational cops-and-robbers drama also starring Ryan Gosling, world-preeming in Special Presentations.

Other world-preeming Galas include Mehta’s adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s novel “Midnight’s Children,” Roger Michell’s “Hyde Park on the Hudson,” about President Roosevelt (Bill Murray) and the missus hosting the British royals in upstate New York in 1939; Mike Newell’s Ralph Fiennes-starring Dickens adaptation “Great Expectations”; Rubba Nadda’s Syria-set thriller “Inescapable”; Sergio Castellitto’s Sarajevo-set Penelope Cruz starrer “Twice Born”; and Gauri Shinde’s transformation journey “English Vinglish.”

Mira Nair’s Venice opener “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” will receive a North American Gala preem, as will Robert Redford’s likely Lido-bound fugitive drama “The Company You Keep,” starring Shia LeBeouf; Billy Bob Thorton’s 1960s Southern father-son story “Jayne Mansfield’s Car” (Robert Duvall, John Hurt, Kevin Bacon) and Nikolai Arcel’s “A Royal Affair,” both preemed at Berlin; Hur Jin-Ho’s Cannes-preemed “Dangerous Liaisons”; and Hideki Takeuchi’s “Thermae Romae.”

“Looper” won’t be the only Toronto pic with a time-travel theme: Special Presentations will see the world preem of “Cloud Atlas,” helmers Tom Tykwer and Andy and Lana Wachowski’s ripple-effect, linked-story epic starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugh Grant.

Stephen Chbosky’s adaptation of his coming-of-age novel “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is one of several U.S. titles world-preeming in the program, along with Stuart Blumberg’s sex-addict recovery dramedy “Thanks for Sharing” (Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, Gwyneth Paltrow); David Ayer’s L.A. cop drama “End of Watch” (Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena); Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman’s romantic fix-gone-wrong story “Imogene” (Annette Bening, Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig); Yaron Zilberman’s classical music-driven friendship story “A Late Quartet,” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman; Joss Whedon’s swiftly shot, text-faithful version of the Bard’s “Much Ado About Nothing”; Noah Baumbach’s Greta Gerwig starrer “Frances Ha”; Nenad Cicin-Sain’s “The Time Being,” a mystery about an artist (Wes Bentley) and his would-be benefactor (Frank Langella); Josh Boone’s family portrait “Writers” (Jennifer Connelly, Greg Kinnear, Kristen Bell); Ramin Bahrani’s father-son struggle “At Any Price” (Dennis Quaid, Zac Efron); and Maiken Baird’s tennis-star docu “Venus and Serena.”

U.K. titles world-preeming in Special Presentations include Jordan’s dark, resort-set mystery “Byzantium”; Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut about old thesp grudges “Quartet”; Sally Potter’s 1960s teenage friendship story “Ginger and Rosa”; and docu “A Liar’s Autobiography,” helmers Ben Timlett, Bill Jones and Jeff Simpson’s “untrue” story of the late Monty Python player Graham Chapman.

International pics world-preeming in the strand include Laurent Cantet’s adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ 1950s-set girl-gang story “Foxfire”; Francois Ozon’s gifted-schoolboy drama “In the House” (Kristin Scott Thomas); J.A. Bayona’s Indian Ocean-set tragedy “The Impossible” (Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor); Margarethe von Trotta’s portrait of the political theorist and Holocaust journo “Hannah Arendt”; Andrew Adamson’s Hugh Laurie-starring island intrigue “Mr. Pip”; Costa-Gavras’ investment-banking drama “Capital”; Ziad Doueiri’s suicide-bombing aftermath story “The Attack”; Eran Riklis’ 1980s-set Lebanon road story “Zaytoun”; Baltasar Kormakur’s ice-and-fire actioner “The Deep”; Nishikawa Miwa’s fraud drama “Dreams for Sale”; and Lu Chuan’s war epic “The Last Supper.”

International preems include “Anna Karenina,” Joe Wright’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s epic novel starring Keira Knightley; Chen Kaige’s female-driven rumor-mill story “Caught in the Web”; Marco Bellocchio’s “Dormant Beauty”; Ana Piterbarg’s Viggo Mortensen starrer “Everybody Has a Plan”; and Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg’s Thor Heyerdahl adaptation “Kon-Tiki.”

Terrence Malick’s likely Venice-bound “To the Wonder” (Affleck, Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams) will receive its North American preem in Special Presentations, as will Matteo Garrone’s “Reality”; Stephane Brize’s “A Few Hours of Spring”; Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Hunt”; Ariel Vromen’s “The Iceman”; Cate Shortland’s “Lore”; Pablo Larrain’s “No”; Takeshi Kitano’s “Outrage Beyond”; Jacques Audiard’s “Rust and Bone”; Wayne Blair’s “The Sapphires”; and Stephen Fung’s “Tai Chi 0.”

Ben Lewin’s “The Sessions,” which bowed at Sundance under the title “The Surrogate,” will receive its Canadian preem in Special Presentations.