There’s no lack of talent walking this year’s TIFF red carpets.

By Jeremy Freed

Claire Foy

Claire Foy

From Buckingham Palace to Apollo 11, this leading lady has made a career on fascinating behind-the-scenes stories.

Claire Foy doesn’t need pearls and a diamond tiara to shine on screen. While the 34-year-old British actress may currently be best known for her starring turn in the lavish Netflix bio-series The Crown, she is well on her way to proving herself worthy of a place among Hollywood royalty.

Foy’s ascension to leading-lady status comes by way of a number of high-profile British television and stage roles, including Anne Boleyn in the six-part BBC drama, Wolf Hall. Her intense portrayal of Henry the VIII’s ill-fated second wife and one-time Queen of England not only earned her a BAFTA nomination for Best Leading Actress on Television, but also the attention of The Crown writer-producer Peter Morgan, who cast her to play a young Elizabeth II in his groundbreaking Netflix show. After just two seasons, Foy’s adept depiction of the reluctant, complex monarch earned her a slew of nominations and statuettes, including a Golden Globe and two Screen Actors Guild Awards.

While Foy’s Hollywood career began inauspiciously with the Nicolas Cage vehicle Season of the Witch, she has since proven herself more than worthy of meatier film roles, including parts in last year’s TIFF premiere Breathe alongside Andrew Garfield, and Steven Soderbergh’s psychological thriller Unsane. This fall Foy returns to the Festival alongside Ryan Gosling in First Man, the dramatic true story of the Apollo 11 moon mission. Directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), executive produced by Steven Spielberg and co-starring Corey Stoll, Kyle Chandler, and Shea Whigham, the film follows Neil Armstrong—played by Gosling—as he prepares to become the first man to walk on the moon.

Sporting a midwestern accent and a 1960s pixie cut straight out of Rosemary’s Baby, Foy plays Janet Shearon, Armstrong’s feisty, no-nonsense first wife, who both supported and butted heads with the famed astronaut. Most are familiar with the 1969 moon landing and Armstrong, but the film reveals the human drama behind the scenes as NASA prepared the famed moonshot. As with The Crown, Foy’s nuanced performance adds vital depth to a well-known tale, allowing audiences an intimate look inside the events that made history. Janet Shearon’s name may be relatively unknown, but Foy’s ability to portray strong, complicated women brings them both the attention they deserve.

Timothée Chalamet

Talent, charisma, and a great head of hair.

If 2017 was a good year for Timothée Chalamet, 2018 is looking even better. Before lighting up the screen in last year’s Call Me by Your Name, this actor was relatively unknown, with a just a handful of movie and TV credits to his name. Following Luca Guadagnino’s film about an angst-filled teen in the throes of a summer love affair with an older man, however, Chalamet (and his beloved curly locks) appears to be everywhere, including in a top-billing role in Beautiful Boy alongside Steve Carell at this year’s TIFF.    

Born in New York to French and American parents, Chalamet’s career began in his early teens before picking up steam in 2014 with roles in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children. No one, however, could have anticipated the 22-year-old’s rise to stardom in 2017. Call Me by Your Name’s premiere at Sundance and subsequent screening at TIFF triggered a rise in notoriety and soon Chalamet was appearing on the covers of Rolling Stone and GQ, while drawing praise for his roles in Lady Bird with Saoirse Ronan and Hostiles with Christian Bale.

Among the year’s spoils for Chalamet were award nominations from around the world, including Best Actor nods at the Oscars, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards, and an Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead. While this overwhelming response might seem hard to top, Chalamet’s roster of upcoming projects is shaping up to be even more promising. Currently in production is The King, an epic historical drama about King Henry V starring Chalamet in the title role alongside a star-studded cast including Joel Edgerton, Robert Pattinson, and Lily-Rose Depp. There’s also Greta Gerwig’s forthcoming adaptation of Little Women, in which Chalamet is cast to appear with Meryl Streep and Emma Stone, and a starring role in Denis Villeneuve’s hotly anticipated remake of the cult classic Dune.

In the meantime, audiences can expect a gut-wrenching performance from both Chalamet and Carell in TIFF’s world premiere of Beautiful Boy. Based on a pair of memoirs by David and Nic Sheff, the story revolves around the relationship of a father and son (Carell and Chalamet, respectively) as they attempt to navigate and treat Nic’s methamphetamine addiction. Co-starring Maura Tierney and Amy Ryan, and helmed by Belgian director Felix Van Groeningen, the film is already generating Oscar buzz for its two leading men. But after the year Chalamet just had, that’s not much of a surprise

Timothée Chalamet
Common

Common

Rapper, activist, poet, and actor, this multi-hyphenate’s talent is anything but.

Born on the South Side of Chicago, Lonnie Corant Jaman Shuka Rashid Lynn Jr., or Common as he came to be known, rose to fame as a hip-hop artist whose groundbreaking albums combined jazz- and soul-laced beats and smart, introspective lyrics. His music became a mainstay of the genre dubbed “Conscious Rap,” whose songs and artists stood out for their thoughtful storytelling and political content.

By the 2000s, Common had established himself as a Grammy-winning recording artist, collaborating with everyone from Lauryn Hill to Kanye West, and reading his poetry aloud at the Obama White House. He had also developed a reputation as an activist, speaking out on behalf of PETA, HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns, and initiatives benefitting underprivileged youth in Chicago.

Common’s screen career began inauspiciously with TV cameos on Scrubs, Girlfriends, and Saturday Night Live, followed by increasingly prominent film roles in titles like American Gangster with Denzel Washington, Terminator Salvation, and Selma, for which he earned an Oscar for Best Original Song. While many rappers have tried and failed to establish themselves on screen, Common’s film work shows the same blend of humour, storytelling, and political awareness as is in his music, a combination that has allowed him to excel in a wide range of genres.

Among the full slate of big-screen projects Common currently has underway is The Hate U Give, which premieres in a gala presentation at TIFF this year. Directed by George Tillman Jr. (Barbershop, Notorious) the film is an adaptation of Angie Thomas’ 2017 young adult novel by the same name, about racial tensions in the Black Lives Matter era. The film stars Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) as a teenage girl torn between two worlds and forced to reckon with her identity and community in the wake of a tragic police shooting. Common co-stars as Stenberg’s uncle, a police officer who must grapple with the task of reconciling identity, family, and justice—just the kind of hard-hitting, timely film that’s come to make up an increasingly large part of Common’s résumé, both as an actor and producer. It’s a filmography that shows he has as much to say on screen as he does in his music… and he’s just getting started.

Julia Roberts

After three decades in Hollywood, Julia Roberts remains America’s Sweetheart.

Janet Maslin called it in 1990. “Julia Roberts… is so enchantingly beautiful, so funny, so natural, and such an absolute delight that it is hard to hold anything against the movie… This performance will make her a major star.” This assessment by the legendary New York Times reviewer in her otherwise eye-rolling critique of Pretty Woman—the premise of which was as tacky and sexist in 1990 as it is today—would turn out to be more than prescient. Many stars are hailed as the next big thing, but few are able to rise to the hype. Fewer still are able to secure a place in American cinema as vaunted as Julia Roberts who, three decades later, is still going strong.

Launching from that star-making role as a sex worker on the hunt for true love and expensive hats, Roberts ruled the American box office through the ’90s and early aughts, holding the title of highest paid actress in Hollywood for most of those years. By 2000, when she was awarded the Best Actress Oscar for her tour-de-force performance in Erin Brockovich, Roberts wasn’t just a star, she was an icon.

A regular at TIFF, Roberts returns this year with another much buzzed-about performance in Ben Is Back, which will have its world premiere at the Festival. Peter Hedges wrote and directed the film, which stars his son, Lucas Hedges as a troubled young man trying to reconnect with his family at Christmas. The younger Hedges, who earned an Oscar nomination for his breakout role in Manchester by the Sea, appears alongside Roberts and Courtney B. Vance in this powerful family drama.

Thanks to hits like My Best Friend’s Wedding and Notting Hill, the ’90s established Roberts as the world’s favourite girl next door. The new millennium, however, has seen her succeed in a wide range of new roles. Following her Oscar win, Roberts has maintained a steady output of high-quality performances while transitioning from the rom-com love interest of her early years to a mature and commanding leading lady. At 50, her career is as vibrant as it’s ever been. In films like Money Monster, Wonder, August: Osage County, and Ben is Back, Roberts proves what Janet Maslin saw all those years ago. No matter what role she’s in, this actress has always been more than just a pretty woman.

Julia Roberts