‘A Star Is Born’ – Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper delivered his directorial debut with a bang in 2018. His remake of “A Star Is Born” earned eight Academy Award nominations, winning Best Song for his duet with Lady Gaga on “Shallow”. Cooper will try to make magic on screen again with “Bernstein”, a biopic of composer Leonard Bernstein which he will also star in.
‘Away From Her’ – Sarah Polley
Former Canadian child actress Sarah Polley premiered her directorial debut at TIFF in 2006. The drama, about a man (Gordon Pinsent) coping with his wife’s (Julie Christie) institutionalization as she further deteriorates with Alzheimer’s, would go on to earn Polley a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination and a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Christie. Polley has gone on to direct other feature films and TV series, including “Take This Waltz” and “Stories We Tell”.
‘Bob Roberts’ – Tim Robbins
The 1992 political satire “Bob Roberts” marked Tim Robbins’ debut as both a writer and director. Robbins also took on the titular role as a conservative folk singer who employs dirty tricks and a smear campaign as he runs for the U.S. Senate. Just three years later, Robbins would earn a Best Director Oscar nomination for his second film, “Dead Man Walking”.
‘Coriolanus’ – Ralph Fiennes
The Weinstein Company
Having already flexed his muscles in the theatre, Ralph Fiennes dipped behind the camera for his take on Shakespeare’s story of war and revenge. Fiennes co-starred in the 2011 movie alongside a cast that includes Gerard Butler, Jessica Chastain, Brian Cox and Vanessa Redgrave. His second outing as a director, “The Invisible Woman”, would also screen at TIFF in 2013.
‘Lady Bird’ – Greta Gerwig
Greta Gerwig proved to be a formidable force behind the camera with the coming of age dramedy “Lady Bird” starring Saoirse Ronan. Gerwig became only the fifth women in the 92-year history of the Academy Awards to earn a Best Director nomination.
‘Rosewater’ – Jon Stewart
Search Engine Films
Though known for his humour and political takes, Jon Stewart made his cinematic bow with “Rosewater” in 2014. In it, he directs Gael Garcia Bernal as Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari who was detained and brutally interrogated by Iranian forces who accused him of being a spy. In 2020, Stewart stepped back behind the camera again for the political comedy “Irresistible”.
‘Whip It’ – Drew Barrymore
Darren Michaels/Fox Searchlight
Drew Barrymore brought a whip-smart dramedy on wheels to TIFF in 2009 with the rocking roller derby flick “Whip It”. Led by Ellen Page, the movie follows a misfit who finds her family in a gang of derby queens played by Barrymore, Eve, Zoe Bell, Kristen Wiig and Juliette Lewis. “Whip It” remains Barrymore’s only directorial feature.
‘I Killed My Mother’ – Xavier Dolan
Quebecois wunderkind Xavier Dolan had already won accolades at Cannes for his directorial debut “I Killed My Mother” when it played TIFF in 2009. With numerous acting credits under his belt, the 20-year-old Dolan wrote, directed and starred in the semi-autobiographical story about a young gay man at odds with his mother.
‘That Thing You Do!’ – Tom Hanks
20th Century Fox
Holding its world premiere at TIFF in 1996, Tom Hanks took over the director’s chair for the first time to chart the rise of fictional 1960s one-hit-wonders The Wonders (or The "One"ders, if you prefer). Also writing the script and appearing in a small role in the film, Hanks has only directed one other film since then, the 2011 dramedy “Larry Crowne”.
‘A Bronx Tale’ – Robert De Niro
Cineplex Odeon Films
Robert De Niro took his time getting behind the camera for “A Bronx Tale”, but it was worth the wait. Screening at TIFF in 1993, De Niro starred opposite Chazz Palminteri (who penned the screenplay) in the crime-drama about a father who worries about his son after he is befriended by a local gangster in the Bronx in the 1960s. It would take another 13 years for De Niro to step back behind the camera for the drama “The Good Shepherd”.