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Toronto Day 3: Eddie Redmayne Emerges as Oscar Contender, Tom Hardy is Double Trouble

Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander solidified their place among Oscar frontrunners, Dan Rather made a case for the fourth estate, and Tom Hardy popped up twice (at least on screen) on day three of the Toronto International Film Festival.

At the after-parties that unfolded around the so-called “festival of festivals” on Saturday the talk was all about Redmayne and Vikander’s performances in “The Danish Girl.” The story of Lili Elbe, one of the first people to undergo gender reassignment surgery in the late 1920s, arrives at a time when stars like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox have helped push transgender issues into the mainstream. Redmayne is certain to land another Oscar nomination, after winning last year for “The Theory of Everything,” and Vikander is a strong bet in the best supporting actress race, where Focus Features plans on campaigning her.

At a Q&A after the screening, Redmayne said he met people from the transgender community “who were so open and generous with their counsel,” he said. “What was most important for me was finding the soul of who Lili was.”

“The Danish Girl” wasn’t the only film trying to shoulder into the Oscar race. “Breaking Bad’s” Bryan Cranston was also up north, making a bid for big screen stardom with his showy role in “Trumbo.” The look at the blacklisted screenwriter of “Roman Holiday” and “Spartacus” drew respectful notices from critics, with Cranston’s work as Dalton Trumbo being particularly well received. A premiere kickoff at Montecito doubled as an anniversary party of sorts for Bleecker Street, the indie label behind “I’ll See You in My Dreams” that launched in advance of last year’s Toronto Film Festival. Guests sipped Eisenhower-era themed cocktails with formidable alcohol levels, while black and white pictures of Trumbo at “Golden Age of Hollywood” gatherings and at work behind a typewriter flanked the room.

Hardy’s “Legend” drew a more muted response. The picture centers on Ron and Reginald Kray, two thuggish crime lords who pummeled their way to the top of the East End of London underbelly in the 1960s. Set to bubbly pop songs meant to contrast ironically with the beatings and bludgeonings taking place on screen, “Legend” is an ultra-violent crime picture for people who thought “Saw” pulled too many punches. Some critics have heaped praise on the English actor, who pulls off a double act as the twin Kray brothers, while others have faulted him for gnawing on the scenery.

Hardy’s director Brian Helgeland lavished praise on his leading man, introducing him to the festival crowd by saying, “I don’t have an adjective long enough I’m just going to go with indomitable.” A celebration for the film unfolded at Soho House immediately after the premiere — the same candy-coated soul and rock songs that pepper the soundtrack played around guests, minus the on-screen bloodshed, of course.

In a city awash in A-list movie stars, former CBS News anchor Rather was the main attraction at the premiere of “Truth.” The film examines a 2004 “60 Minutes” report that claimed President George W. Bush used political connections to avoid fighting in Vietnam. Issues with documents used in the reporting cost Rather his career. While the anchor (played on-screen by Robert Redford) copped to missteps, he had harsher criticism for his CBS bosses, accusing them of bending under pressure from White House officials. The picture could help rehabilitate Rather’s legacy, although the consensus from those that saw “Truth” was that the film could be overshadowed by “Spotlight,” another look at journalistic muckraking that benefits from having the good guys win.

As for festival sales, buyers flocked to a secret screening of the Aretha Franklin documentary “Amazing Grace.” The look at the music diva has been entangled in litigation, but is still attracting some heat. Potential bidders are also circling the drone thriller “Eye in the Sky” and the Danish war drama “Land of Mine,” while would-be buyers have dropped out and then in again in the hunt to land Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next.”

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