TORONTO - The Toronto International Film Festival wrapped Sunday after 11 days of movie mayhem. While no film was touted as an Oscar lock, there was plenty of satisfying cinema on offer. Here are some highlights as bleary-eyed Canadian Press reporters reflect on the fest.
Timothy Spall: This veteran British thesp may have grunted his way to awards season glory with this mesmerizing turn as 19th century painter J.M.W. Turner in Mike Leigh's visually stunning "Mr. Turner."
Benedict Cumberbatch: The "Sherlock" star throws himself into the role of Alan Turing in "The Imitation Game," a biopic on the brilliant but underappreciated mathematical genius whose code-breaking skills helped hasten the end of the Second World War.
Richard Gere: The onetime American Gigolo is unforgettable in "Time Out of Mind" as a depressed and homeless New Yorker trying to turn his life around. Viewers who loved him in "An Officer and a Gentleman" will wonder where the years have gone.
Julianne Moore: As she prepared to play a professor diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's in "Still Alice," the actress met with real women afflicted by the disease. Her performance is understated and shattering, as the audience watches her slowly lose her memories and sense of self.
Eddie Redmayne: The 32-year-old English actor spent months readying himself to embody brilliant scientist Stephen Hawking's excruciating physical deterioration from ALS. His transformative performance in "The Theory of Everything" is already garnering deafening buzz.
Reese Witherspoon: Goodbye Elle Woods, hello woman of the woods. The normally glam star went without makeup or hair styling — and carried a 70-pound backpack — to portray a divorcee on a gruelling hike to find herself. The result is a raw performance that should ensure the Oscar winner another trip to the Dolby Theater.
Jack O'Connell: This down-to-earth Brit is fast becoming a familiar face across the pond, but his gritty performance as a rookie soldier in "'71" is bound to draw to attention from North American audiences. With a much-anticipated lead role in Angelina Jolie's upcoming "Unbroken," O'Connell could be on the cusp of real recognition.
Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, Emmanuel Jal and Kuoth Wiel: This foursome channelled painful memories of civil unrest in Africa as they played Sudanese refugees in "The Good Lie." Beyond their incredible performances, they were also thoughtful and engaging on the festival circuit.
Felicity Jones: Her role as Stephen Hawking's first wife Jane Wilde in "The Theory of Everything" was not as physically demanding as Redmayne's, but she conveyed the inner turmoil of a woman watching her husband undergo drastic changes. The English actress could be a candidate for the A-list with the formidable performance.
Miles Teller: The young actor delivers a gripping performance as he sweats and bleeds all over a drumset in "Whiplash," playing a jazz drummer determined for greatness who's being guided by a tyrannical instructor. Teller is highly convincing as a prodigy pushed to his limits.
BOYHOOD BANTER: "Tusk" star Justin Long couldn't stop singing the praises of Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" at the fest. He even flicked through his phone to play the Family of the Year song "Hero," a mainstay in the film's trailers that he "couldn't get out of his head."
CANUCK KEIRA: Oscar-nominated British actress Keira Knightley declared she'd have no trouble speaking in a Canadian accent if her work ever required it. The "Imitation Game" star had just remarked on the "very strong" Canadian accent of a journalist conducting an interview.
CUMBERBATCH FEVER: Fans fawned over Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of "The Imitation Game." Screaming devotees packed King Street for several blocks, to the chagrin of grumbling passing pedestrians. Cumberbatch stopped to sign autographs and pose for selfies. At the Q-and-A after the screening, one woman called him "actually quite yummy" and asked if she could "taste his deliciousness."
DOWNEY A DELIGHT: The star of the TIFF opener "The Judge," Robert Downey surprised a handful of scribes when he suddenly burst in on an interview being conducted by his wife, producer Susan Downey, and the film's director, David Dobkin. Planting a smooch on his pregnant spouse, the "Chaplin" star — clad in orange jeans, orange high-tops and a swirling grey-and-orange sweatshirt — then patiently sat down to field questions.
DYNAMIC DUO: It was clear "The Drop" co-stars Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace enjoy each other's company. An on-camera interview filled with jokes between the two started with Rapace asking Hardy — after eating something blue — "Are my lips weird?" "That's an existential question," he replied before adding: "You look like a blue Shrek." She then took a minute to wipe the blue stain off her lips and teeth.
WAITING ON WAYNE: An interview with a gregarious Janet Gretzky was delayed momentarily as the "Sound and Fury" star apologized politely, saying she needed to take a moment to text her hockey-star husband. Wandering around as the chat ultimately took place was the film's director, auteur James Franco, clad in a tuque — no doubt designed to cover up his shaved head and its inexplicable temporary tattoo of Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor.
HUNGRY STARS: Seemingly peckish "Equalizer" co-star Chloe Grace Moretz nibbled on freshly cut fruit through her chat with a reporter before jumping up and declaring it was "time for lunch" as soon as the interview wrapped; Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra's aides asked a journalist to give the actress a moment as she chowed down on a burger between interviews; a hungry Jon Stewart jokingly cried out for snacks then munched on Starbucks coffee cake; and John Cusack chewed a dark chocolate bar during an interview but remembered his manners and handed the reporter a few pieces to eat along with him.
QUIPPY KENDRICK: Anna Kendrick spent the first few minutes of an interview for "The Last Five Years" on her phone desperately searching for the name of one of the tunes on the movie musical's soundtrack. "This is so embarrassing," she said, explaining how she couldn't remember the title of the track in a previous interview. "Oh my God, and my phone is frozen, so I'm going to do the exact same thing in this interview." After trying again, she concluded: "Well, the Internet hates me. ... OK, I'm just going to throw this out the window.'"
— By Canadian Press film festival reporters Victoria Ahearn, Andrea Baillie, Laura Kane, Diana Mehta and Nick Patch.