Seven Years In Tibet the closing gala at the International Film Festival
Brad makes a Pitt stop here
By BRUCE KIRKLAND
Brad Pitt's controversial Seven Years In Tibet, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, will be the official closing night gala of the Toronto International Film Festival.
Which means Pitt will be spending a weekend in Toronto in September to present the film in person, festival director Piers Handling announced yesterday.
In the real-life movie, Pitt stars as Austrian mountain climber Heinrich Harrer, who escaped from a British POW camp during World War II and befriended the young Dalai Lama in Tibet. Harrer was recently revealed to have a Nazi past, although he found spiritual awakening in Tibet. Annaud has reportedly dealt with that issue in the narration of the film.
Pitt will be one of the biggest names in a huge contingent of stars, Handling said. "The festival will be star-studded."
Confirmed are: Steve Martin, David Thewlis, Danny DeVito, Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Peter O'Toole, Campbell Scott, Claudia Schiffer, Christopher Walken, Matthew Modine, Robert Duvall, Sylvie Marceau, Kevin Kline, Diahann Carroll, Robin Wright Penn and William Hurt.
"And just about every director who has a film in the festival will be here," Handling said, excepting only filmmakers working on new films and a couple of octogenarians who are "too fragile" to travel to Toronto.
By announcing a slew of new titles yesterday, Handling also filled out the lineup for the 22nd Toronto filmfest, which is scheduled for Sept. 4-13. Dozens of new titles were announced.
The newcomers include five other galas besides Pitt's film: Iain Softley's The Wings Of The Dove, starring Helena Bonham Carter; Wayne Wang's Chinese Box, starring Jeremy Irons and Gong Li; Agnes Merlet's Artemisia, starring Michel Serrault; Andrew Niccol's Gattaca, starring Uma Thurman and Alan Arkin; and Christian Duguay's The Assignment, starring Aidan Quinn and Donald Sutherland.
Added to the Special Presentations series are seven world premieres, including Robert Duvall's The Apostle, his long- awaited film as actor, director, writer and producer.
After 13 years of development hell, Duvall got the film made. Toronto will mark its world premiere and a new beginning for him, Duvall told Variety this week.
"About 25 guys from distributors have called my little office in Virginia," said Duvall. "I've told them all the premiere is 6.30 p.m. on Sept. 6 in a big theatre. I'm told (the Toronto Festival) is a great festival to make a distribution deal."
Also added to Special Presentations are: David Mamet's The Spanish Prisoner, Peter O' Fallon's Suicide Kings, Hal Hartley's Henry Fool, Alan Rudolph's Afterglow and James Toback's Two Girls And A Guy.
Named to the Masters series is Japanese veteran Shohei Imamura's The Eel, the co-winner of the Palme d'Or as best film at Cannes this year. The other co-winner, Abbas Kiarostami's Taste Of Cherry, was not available to the festival due to a distribution deal, Handling said. "We can't have everything."
Handling said the 1997 lineup is as strong as last year's, despite fears generated at Cannes that this was a sluggish year for cinema. Cannes is a competitive festival so it seeks out world premieres. "We can select anything," Handling said. "What that does is free us up."
Toronto is free to go Hollywood, too, but Handling said that complaints of the filmfest selling out to Hollywood studios "are unjust criticism." Only 10 of the 233 features are from the major studios, he said. "Hollywood doesn't overwhlem the gala program nor does it the rest of the festival."