Every year, there are breakout performances at the Toronto International Film Festival -- remember Freida Pinto in "Slumdog Millionaire"? Here are five actors you'll be hearing about as the festival unfolds.
David Oyelowo: If you've never heard of David Oyelowo, you're not alone but the London-trained, Oxford born actor anchors all his scenes he appears in Lee Daniels Southern Gothic "The Paperboy." And that's saying something since he's sharing the screen with Zac Efron, Mathew McConaughey and Nicole Kidman. It's an overwrought movie — Tennessee Williams by way of John Waters — where "Precious" director Daniels doesn't quite make it clear if it's supposed to be so far out that its funny, or the laughs are unintentional. The camera ogles Efron in his tighty-whities like a porn star, catches McConaughey hog-tied then one-eyed, and has Kidman doing a dinner theater Blanche Dubois while performing steam sexy acts. And then there's Oyelowo, an island of sly wit and natty looks as a bemused African American big city reporter facing Southern fried prejudice. Whenever he's in the frame he pulls the audience's eyes toward him without gimmicks — no small feat given Daniels compulsion to stalk the underdressed Efron with the camera. There's a solidity to his acting, a calm in the storm that also comes through in his other movie at TIFF: in Ava DuVernay's serious, somber "Middle of Nowhere" Oyelowo plays a soft-shouldered, self-respecting bus driver. Up next? Roles in "Lincoln" and "Jack Reacher." While Oyelowo is definitely one to watch, here are four more fresh faces at the Festival:
Mads Mikkelson: Danish actor Mikkelson does double duty at TIFF12. In "The Hunt," he portrays a kindly kindergarten teacher accused of exposing his willie by one of his pupils, and their close-knit rural community unravels with accusations false and true. In the historical romance "A Royal Affair," he plays a German doctor who charms the crazy king and beds the queen. He won best actor honors at Cannes this year for "The Hunt," and was honored at Telluride along with Marion Cotillard for "Rust & Bone." Mikkelson, 46, is a cross between Viggo Mortensen and Ciaran Hinds — intellectual, physical, sexy. I'm calling a best actor nomination for Mikkelson now. Think of it this way: this time last year, I couldn't spell "The Artist's" Jean Dujardin much less spell his name. What a difference a year can make.
[Related: 2012 TIFF: Hidden gems of the festival]
Mary Elizabeth Winstead: Winstead ("Scott Pilgrim vs. The World") leaps to leading lady status as a manic pixie dream girl who's overdosing on pixie dust. Winstead's Kate gradually awakens to the realization that she is "Smashed" more often than sober. It takes losing her breakfast in front of her first-grade class to realize that she's crossed the line from adorably to pathetically alcoholic. The party is over. Unfortunately, it's not quite over for her husband, played by Aaron Paul ("Breaking Bad") -- and it's Kate's story as she realizes she must face this crisis, with or without him. Her crawl toward the twelve steps, and how that fractures her "storybook" marriage, makes for a compelling look at a real girl who finally puts herself first as an individual, memorably played by Winstead.
[Photos: 2012 Toronto Film Festival portraits]
Chris O'Dowd: The low-key Irishman popped as Kristen Wiig's cop love interest in "Bridesmaids," and then followed it by playing Maya Rudolph's husband in "Friends With Kids." Now the charming actor with the light touch takes the lead role as the manager of an all-girl Aboriginal band in the feel-good "The Sapphires" set in 1968. Based on the true story of the group billed as Australia's answer to "The Supremes," the movie becomes a showcase for O'Dowd's warm-hearted comic talents, and with the Weinstein Company distributing, buzz has already begun for an Oscar push.
[Photos: Toronto Festival 2012 film lineup]
Alicia Vikander: In the year of great Danes at the festival, the dark-eyed beauty, 23, plays one half of "A Royal Affair" as Caroline Mathilda, the British-born Queen of Denmark. There are shades of Marie Antoinette without the "let them eat cake" extremes as this educated woman gradually awakens to her potential to change history by introducing enlightenment ideas she's been exposed to in England to the Danish court. Vikander shapes her royal character with infinite patience, growing from naïve virgin delivered by coach to the erratic King Christian VII she's never met, to wife, mother, ruler and passionate lover. The slow awakening of her character is a thing of beauty. Vikander also has the supporting role of Kitty in the highly-anticipated Keira Knightley — Joe Wright "Anna Karenina" making its North American premiere at the festival.
See the trailers for films premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival: