Eight of TIFF’s hottest breakout stars

Eight of TIFF’s hottest breakout stars

The Toronto International Film Festival is a spawning ground for shiny new movie stars: in years past, actors like Alicia Vikander, Lupita Nyong’o, Brie Larson and Dev Patel came to the fest as hopefuls and left as household names. Here’s a look at the eight freshest faces to emerge from this year’s TIFF.

Ruth Negga with co-star Joel Edgerton. Image courtesy of TIFF.
The quiet contender

This year’s frontrunners for the Best Actress Oscar include big names like Amy Adams, Emma Stone, Natalie Portman—and the unknown Ethiopian-Irish actress Ruth Negga, who stars in the romantic civil rights drama Loving. Negga plays the real-life activist Mildred Loving, who was arrested along with her husband, Richard, for miscegenation in 1958 Virginia. She’s dazzlingly subtle as a practical, proper woman who suddenly finds herself living as an outlaw. In theatres Nov. 4.

The boy wonder

Lucas Hedges had to audition five times before director Kenneth Lonergan cast him in Manchester by the Sea, a mournful elegy that is making hardened critics weep into their popcorn. The 20-year-old Hedges is Patrick, a high schooler who goes to live with his taciturn janitor uncle (played by Casey Affleck) after his dad dies. Hedges could very well earn a supporting actor Oscar nom for his wonderfully awkward performance as a damaged kid trying to pretend everything is still okay. In theatres Nov. 18.

Hannah Gross, right, with co-star Catherine Keener. Image courtesy of TIFF.

The prodigal daughter

Hannah Gross was born into a Canadian dynasty: her mother is Stratford actor Martha Burns, and her father is former TV Mountie Paul Gross. To cement her Canadian imprimatur, Gross is starring in the film adaptation of Unless, the final novel by CanLit icon Carol Shields. It’s about a Toronto couple (Catherine Keener and Matt Craven) who discover their daughter has dropped out of school and taken up panhandling outside of Honest Ed’s. As the good girl gone astray, Gross is luminous even when she’s numb. Release date TBD.

Robbie Amell. Image courtesy of TIFF.

The superhero

Toronto has never been much of a breeding ground for action stars—that is, until the Amell family came along. Stephen Amell plays the Green Arrow on the CW and, this fall, his young cousin, Robbie Amell, makes his TIFF debut in Arq, a jacked-up twist on Groundhog Day. Amell channels the charm of a young Tom Cruise as an improbably handsome scientist in the vague dystopian future who invents a time machine that replays the same nightmarish day on an infinite loop. On Netflix Sept. 16.

The multi-hyphenate

It’s not enough for Janelle Monáe to have a slick music career, a CoverGirl contract and Michelle Obama’s phone number. She also stars in two of TIFF’s biggest titles: in the inspiring feminist flick Hidden Figures, Monáe plays a real-life engineer who helped NASA calculate flight trajectories for the Apollo missions; in the artsy mood piece Moonlight, she’s the sensitive girlfriend of a troubled drug dealer. Moonlight: in theatres Oct. 21. Hidden Figures: in theatres Jan. 17.

#Moonlight world premiere at #Telluride ?@bandrybarry

A photo posted by Mahershala Ali (@mahershalaali) on

The heavy hitter

Everyone knows Mahershala Ali’s face—he’s had bit parts in The Hunger Games, House of Cards, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and on it goes. Now they’ll also know his name. Ali is getting all the buzz for Moonlight, a poetic film about black masculinity. He plays Juan, a charismatic drug dealer who rescues the young hero from a gang of bullies and becomes a morally murky father figure. In theatres Oct. 21.

Charlotte Le Bon with co-star Christian Bale. Image courtesy of TIFF.

The bombshell

In The Promise, Montreal actress Charlotte Le Bon has the enviable task of choosing between Christian Bale (as an intense journalist) and Oscar Isaac (as an idealistic Armenian medical student), as all three are swept up in the Armenian Genocide of 1914. It’s totally overwrought—and who wouldn’t pick Oscar Isaac?—but Le Bon sells it, weeping and pining and evoking the glorious melodramatic heroines of old Hollywood. Release date TBD.

Sennia Nanua. Image courtesy of TIFF.

The scream queen

TIFF has a knack for finding the most precociously gifted child stars—Jacob Tremblay, Quevenzhane Wallis and Abraham Attah have all made adorable appearances. Next up: Sennia Nanua, a 12-year-old Brit who stars in the melancholy post-apocalyptic thriller The Girl with All the Gifts. Nanua is Melanie, a tweenage zombie being muzzled and studied by a menacing doctor (Glenn Close, of course). Silently, scarily, Melanie oscillates between shy sweetness and ravenous blood thirst. It’s even stranger than Stranger Things. Release date TBD.