You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Toronto Kicks Off With Dancing Jake Gyllenhaal, Quivering Michael Moore

The 40th annual Toronto International Film Festival kicked off on Thursday night with a rousing double bill at the Princess of Wales Theatre: opening night feature “Demolition,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal, followed immediately by the Michael Moore documentary “Where to Invade Next.”

The evening started off with Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallee preserving his hot streak at Toronto with the world premiere of his black comedy “Demolition.” Unlike recent pictures that disappointed in the inaugural slot, such as the execrable “The Fifth Estate” and the hackneyed “The Judge,” “Demolition” received an enthusiastic reception. It’s not due in theaters until April 8, but Fox Searchlight hopes that the quirky story of an investment banker (Gyllenhaal) who suffers a breakdown after his wife dies in a car crash can build buzz months before its release.

The screening of “Demolition” was preceded by a look back at Toronto’s four-decade history. Set to disco music, the footage highlighted the early days of the festival, with snapshots of stars like Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, Emma Thompson, Reese Witherspoon and Bill Murray. Then the fest’s artistic director Cameron Bailey expressed his excitement for the opening night selection, noting that it followed a series of strong performances by Gyllenhaal in the likes of “Nightcrawler” and “Southpaw.” “We call it the ‘Jake quake,'” he said. “You can hashtag that.”

In a spirited introduction, packed with superlatives, Vallee thanked Toronto for hosting so many of his films, a list that includes “Wild,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “The Young Victoria.” “This is the most rock ‘n’ roll film I’ve ever made,” he said of “Demolition.”

He introduced a cast that included Naomi Watts (appearing in a beige dress that was layered like a scrunchy) and Chris Cooper. But he saved his highest praises for Gyllenhaal. “There’s nothing he hasn’t done, he hasn’t tried,” said Vallee. “You’ll see him act, of course. You’ll see him dance. You’ll see him sing.”

After the crowds dispersed from “Demolition,” Michael Moore unveiled his hotly anticipated new documentary “Where to Invade Next.” The film, in its first public screening, was interrupted regularly by applause, as interviewees made points about health care, capital punishment, racial and gender equality, education and multiple other topics about the country’s need to recapture the American Dream. “I’m so overcome watching this film with this audience that I’m shaking,” said Moore.

He told the audience that it has been several years between his latest film and 2009’s “Capitalism: A Love Story,” because “I’m tired of being the poster boy for Fox News.” The film so far has no distributor, but the bidding is expected to be intense and could carry on throughout the evening.

The after party for “Demolition” was held at Patria, a swanky restaurant featuring Italianate art and stacks of vodka bottles. “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner and “Prisoners” director Denis Villeneuve mingled with the cast and Searchlight executives.

Gyllenhaal warmly greeted a line of admirers who congratulated his performance, including buddy Villeneuve, who is at Toronto with “Sicario.” Watts sat in a booth, checking her iPhone, and director Jean-Marc Vallee said he’d take time off after doing three movies back to back.

Gyllenhaal, who shot “Demolition” over a frenzied 38-day period last year, said there were even more scenes of him breakdancing through the streets of Manhattan, but they were cut from the finished product. Not to worry. “It will be on the DVD outtakes,” Vallee promised.

Tim Gray contributed to this story.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Slam

    Film Review: ‘Slam’

    The disappearance of a fearless female Palestinian-Australian slam poet triggers suspense and powerful social and political commentary in “Slam,” an outstanding slow-burn thriller by expat Indian filmmaker Partho Sen-Gupta (“Sunrise”). Starring Palestinian actor Adam Bakri (“Omar,” “Official Secrets”) as the missing woman’s conflicted brother, and leading Aussie performer Rachael Blake as a troubled cop, Opening [...]

  • Igo Kantor

    Igo Kantor, Producer and Post-Production Executive, Dies at 89

    Igo Kantor, whose Hollywood career took him from Howard Hughes’ projection room to supervising post-production on “Easy Rider” and producing B-movies like “Kingdom of the Spiders” and “Mutant,” died Oct. 15. He was 89. Kantor, who was born in Vienna and raised in Lisbon, met “Dillinger” director Max Nosseck on the ship to New York. [...]

  • The Lion King

    Average Movie Ticket Price Falls 4% in Third Quarter of 2019

    Average ticket prices for the third quarter have dropped 4% to $8.93, down from Q2’s $9.26, the National Association of Theatre Owners announced today. However, compared with the third quarter of 2018, ticket price has risen 1.1% from $8.83. The summer box office is down 2.13% from 2018, though the third quarter box office is [...]

  • Tilda Swinton to Preside Over The

    Tilda Swinton to Preside Over Marrakech Film Festival

    Tilda Swinton, the iconoclastic British actress and producer, is set to preside over the 18th edition of the Marrakech International Film Festival, succeeding to American director James Gray. Swinton, who won an Oscar and a BAFTA award for best supporting actress for “Michael Clayton,” has been leading an eclectic acting career. She has collaborated with [...]

  • The King Netflix

    Middleburg Film Festival Brings Hollywood to Virginia

    For the last seven years, audiences have flocked to the Middleburg Film Festival. Running October 17th – 21st, and situated in the wine-country hills of historic Middleburg, Virg., the festival usually highlights some of the year’s buzziest titles, and 2019 is no exception. “We’re a smaller festival with fewer overall screenings than other events, so we [...]

  • Kelly McCormick and David Leitch'Fast &

    'Wheelman' Director to Helm 'Versus' From David Leitch, Kelly McCormick (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Wheelman” director Jeremy Rush is in negotiations to helm the action movie “Versus,” with Kelly McCormick and David Leitch producing. Rush will direct the Universal movie from a script penned by “Three Musketeers” scribe Alex Litvak and “American Assassin” writer Mike Finch. Plot details are being kept under wraps, though it will follow the genre [...]

  • Taika Waititi Jojo Rabbit Premiere

    Why Director Taika Waititi Decided to Play Adolf Hitler in 'Jojo Rabbit'

    “Fox Searchlight blackmailed me into doing it,” Taika Waititi told Variety of playing Adolf Hilter in “Jojo Rabbit” at the film’s premiere at American Legion Post 43 on Tuesday night in Hollywood. Staying mum when asked which other actors had been on his wish list to play the role, Waititi explained why he eventually decided [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content