Steven Spielberg, Viola Davis and Daniel Craig head to Toronto film festival

<span>Composite: Getty images</span>
Composite: Getty images

Steven Spielberg, Viola Davis and Daniel Craig are among the stars descending on Toronto for this year’s film festival, a return to form for what’s seen as a major Oscar bellwether.

Like many other festivals across the globe, Toronto had retreated to a digital iteration with the advent of Covid and while last year’s was a hybrid edition involving some physical premieres, it was still operating at half-mast without the traditional star power attached.

This year, things are back to normal with a packed lineup of world premieres spearheaded by the new film from Steven Spielberg. The director has gone back to his childhood with The Fabelmans, a coming-of-age drama about a wannabe film-maker, loosely based on his own childhood. It also stars Michelle Williams, Paul Dano and Seth Rogen.

“It was incredible to see how much of this was in his work the whole time,” said Dano, who plays a character modelled on Spielberg’s father. “He’s sharing a piece of himself that I find very moving. There’s a real gift in it, when somebody of that stature and at that level of artistry is willing to do that.”

After the starry whodunnit Knives Out was met with enthused reviews at the 2019 festival, writer-director Rian Johnson will bring the sequel Glass Onion in front of audiences this year with Daniel Craig returning as Benoit Blanc. The latest is part of a Netflix deal worth $469m after the streamer bought the rights to two follow-ups. Craig will be joined by an ensemble cast including Kate Hudson, Janelle Monáe, Edward Norton, Kathryn Hahn and Dave Bautista. “It’s a rollercoaster and not a crossword puzzle,” Johnson has said of the film.

Oscar-winner Viola Davis is already generating awards buzz with her turn in historical action epic The Woman King, premiering at the festival on Friday. The film, from the Old Guard director Gina Prince-Bythewood, tells the story of the Agojie, the all-female group of warriors who protected the west African kingdom of Dahomey against invaders. John Boyega and Lashana Lynch also star.

“I’ve never had a role like this before,” Davis said in an interview with Vanity Fair. “It’s transformative.” She has called the film her “magnum opus”.

The festival will also see premieres of the foodie thriller The Menu starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Fiennes, romantic comedy Bros which has an all-LGBTQ cast, fact-based serial killer drama The Good Nurse starring Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne, PTSD drama Causeway starring Jennifer Lawrence and love triangle romance My Policeman starring Harry Styles as a married man in the 1950s who has an affair with another man. “It’s not like ‘This is a gay story about these guys being gay,’” he said to Rolling Stone. “It’s about love and about wasted time to me.”

Other British hopes include the Working Title romantic comedy What’s Love Got to Do With It starring Lily James and Emma Thompson, an Emily Bronte biopic called Emily starring Sex Education’s Emma Mackey, Richard Eyre’s adaptation of Alan Bennett’s Allelujah! starring Jennifer Saunders and Judi Dench and The Swimmers from the My Brother, the Devil director Sally El-Hosaini which tells the story of the teenage Olympian refugee Yusra Mardini.

More than 200 films will be screened during the 10-day festival in Toronto.