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Reese Witherspoon, Denzel Washington among stars with TIFF-bound films

Reese Witherspoon arrives at the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards, on Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Santa Monica, Calif. Oscar-nominated Quebec director Philippe Falardeau will celebrate the world premiere of his new movie "The Good Lie" at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival.The fact-based drama stars Witherspoon as a straight-talking American who helps four Sudanese refugees. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ AP-Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

TORONTO – Oscar-nominated Quebec director Philippe Falardeau will celebrate the world premiere of his new movie “The Good Lie” at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival.

The fact-based drama stars Reese Witherspoon as a straight-talking American who helps four Sudanese refugees and is Falardeau’s first film since 2011’s “Monsieur Lazhar,” which was shortlisted for an Academy Award.

The first wave of titles to screen at the annual movie marathon were announced Tuesday morning at a news conference where artistic director Cameron Bailey touted their “strong, diverse line-up.”

Witherspoon will have two high-profile projects screening at the festival. She also stars in “Wild,” the latest entry from Quebec director Jean-Marc VallĂ©e based on the bestselling memoir by Cheryl Strayed.

“When Reese Witherspoon acts, I think she’s always very believable onscreen,” said Bailey in an interview. “These are very different characters but she’s playing them in both cases … as fully rounded individuals.”

Other world premieres bound for Toronto include the chess flick “Pawn Sacrifice,” starring Tobey Maguire as Bobby Fischer and Liev Schreiber as Boris Spassky; the Denzel Washington thriller “The Equalizer”; and the indie custody saga “Black and White,” which re-teams Kevin Costner with “Upside of Anger” director Mike Binder and also stars Oscar winner Octavia Spencer.

In addition, festival audiences will get a first look at the Jake Gyllenhaal action flick “Nightcrawler” and the Steven Hawking biopic “The Theory of Everything,” which stars Eddie Redmayne as the famed scientist and Felicity Jones as his wife.

Another buzzed-about festival-bound title is director Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher,” which casts Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo in a based-on-a-true-story tale about the strange relationship between a multi-millionaire and two champion wrestlers.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 4 to 14. This year, King Street will be closed to cars and transit between Peter Street and University Avenue for the festival’s busy opening weekend.

Bailey said the strip would be transformed into a “pedestrian-friendly promenade full of free programming, pop-up performances, an outdoor stage and much, much more.”

David Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars” will have its North American premiere at the festival after screening at Cannes earlier this year.

Other titles revealed Tuesday include: “The Riot Club,” from director Lone Scherfig, who made a splash at the fest a few years back with the Carey Mulligan standout “An Education”; the tart family comedy “This is Where I Leave You,” which is directed by Montreal-born Shawn Levy (“A Night At the Museum”) and features Jason Bateman and Tina Fey; and “Still Alice,” which stars Kristen Stewart and Julianne Moore and is based on the popular Lisa Genova novel about a professor battling Alzheimer’s.

Festival favourite Jason Reitman, meanwhile, will screen “Men, Women & Children” in Toronto, while “The Squid and the Whale” helmer Noah Baumbach will reveal his new feature “While We’re Young,” starring Amanda Seyfried, Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts.

Other buzzed-about films being launched at the fest include “The Judge,” starring Robert Downey Jr. as a lawyer whose estranged father is accused of murder, and “The Drop,” featuring Tom Hardy as a lonely bartender who finds himself at the centre of a robbery gone awry.

In addition, Oscar-winning “Rain Man” director Barry Levinson will unveil his latest effort, “The Humbling,” which is based on a Philip Roth novel and stars Al Pacino.

The Toronto International Film Festival unveiled a new policy this year of only screening world premieres during the first four days of the festival. Last year, the Telluride festival in Colorado premiered films like “12 Years a Slave” before they were set to screen in Toronto.

“I think if everyone is just clearer about what the premiere status is, then that’s a success,” said Bailey in an interview. “We’re still going to have all the films we would have selected. Also, I think it’s given us the opportunity to have a fuller, longer festival of the bigger, premiere films. So I think (the policy has) worked.”

The opening-night film has yet to be announced but Bailey stressed that the delay had nothing to do with the new premiere policy.

“We’re still working on it, and we didn’t want to rush a decision,” he said. “We are going to announce it shortly and we just wanted to make sure we chose the right film.”

But Bailey said he was thrilled about the closing movie, “A Little Chaos,” from director Alan Rickman and starring Kate Winslet, Stanley Tucci and Rickman himself. The film is a historical drama set in France during the reign of Louis XIV.

“Alan Rickman, I’ve loved for many many years as an actor and now he’s directing as well. It stars Kate Winslet, who is a fantastic actress and so good at what she does,” said Bailey. “They’re both very strong dramatic actors but they’ve got kind of a comic edge to them as well.”

The festival’s full Canadian slate of films is to be revealed in early August. The celebrity guest list has yet to be announced.