Waititi, Keaton go behind lens at Toronto film fest

It’s difficult to keep up with all the world premieres available at the Toronto International Film Festival because each day has a busy schedule of showing from early in the morning until late at night at several locations.

These three films had their world premieres this past weekend in the biggest city in Canada. They are all actors who have a history of performing in front of cameras: Tony Goldwyn from “Scandal,” Michael Keaton, and Oscar winner Taika Waititi.

With “Next Goal Wins,” Waititi garnered a ton of applause and laughter on Sunday. The upbeat comedy follows American Samoa’s football squad as they attempt to reach the World Cup less than ten years after losing 31-0 in a qualifying game.

Michael Fassbender was cast against type in a humorous role as Dutch-American team manager Thomas Rongen, who is assigned to try to whip the bumbling team into shape by the 48-year-old actor-director (Thor: Ragnarok, What We Do in the Shadows).

The story had already been told in documentary form, but Waititi infused this slightly fictionalised take with his signature offbeat sense of humor a winning formula, if the enthusiastic applause from the crowd was any indication.

“I wanted to tell this story because it’s uplifting… I had never attempted to make a sports film, so I just wanted to give myself a new challenge and get out of my comfort zone,” Waititi said on the red carpet.

In 2019, the Maori director’s Nazi parody “Jojo Rabbit” took home the coveted TIFF People’s Choice Award in Toronto. Waititi later won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay for the picture.

In “Knox Goes Away,” Keaton played both the director and the actor as John Knox, a hit guy with memory loss who is attempting to complete one final job by aiding his estranged son (James Marsden) in covering up a murder.

The path forward is difficult, so Knox asks his friend Xavier (Al Pacino) for assistance so he can remember every aspect of his profession before it’s too late.

The film provided a distinctive look at the effects of memory loss and the propensity to make amends in one’s final days. It was at times darkly humorous.

Goldwyn, a stage and screen actor known for ‘Ghost’ and a years-long run on ABC’s ‘Scandal’, is also an accomplished director, with multiple films under his belt.

This time out, he tapped Robert De Niro, Bobby Cannavale and Rose Byrne to star in ‘Ezra’, a crackling family drama based on the experiences of Goldwyn’s friend and screenwriter Tony Spiridakis in raising an autistic son.

Cannavale plays Max, a standup comic trying to land a spot on a late-night talk show while navigating a divorce from Jenna (Byrne, his real-life partner) and the complex needs of their son Ezra (William Fitzgerald).

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