Move aside Hitchcock, here comes Walt Disney.
Last year, AFI Fest opened with that behind-the-scenes Hollywood drama about the making of an iconic film, and they’re doing it once again — albeit with a spoonful of sugar this time.
Saving Mr. Banks, about the combative relationship between Walt Disney and Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers, will open the Nov. 7-14 festival, which is considered a prime showcase for Oscar contenders.
Hitchcock ended up faring only so-so in the awards race last year, with Best Hair and Make-Up being its only nomination (which it lost to Les Miserables), but for a time it vaulted Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins into the conversation.
With the premiere of Saving Mr. Banks, directed by The Blind Side‘s John Lee Hancock (who won Sandra Bullock her first Oscar), the ones talked about this time will be the performances of Tom Hanks as avuncular Disney and Emma Thompson as fussy, feisty Travers.
AFI Fest had its strongest impact on awards season last year with its closing night film, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln — which went on to win Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis and Best Production Design, among 12 total nominations (including Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, and Director.)
The festival’s 2013 closing film will be the Coen brothers’ folk-music drama Inside Llewyn Davis, starring Oscar Isaac as a struggling musician in Greenwich Village in 1961. The movie, which co-stars Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, and Justin Timberlake, won the Grand Prix award when it premiered premiered in May at the Cannes Film Festival.
In between its opening and closing night, AFI Fest has managed to squeeze in another debut, dubbing its Friday night premiere slot the “opening weekend gala.” Last year, that position was held by Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, which went on to win Oscars for Best Director, Visual Effects, Score, and Cinematography, among 11 nominations (including Best Picture.)
This time, the opening weekend gala will be the premiere of Foxcatcher, a dark, true-life drama starring Steve Carell as mentally unbalanced multi-millionaire John du Pont, who brings chaos and destruction to Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and his older brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) after sponsoring the younger siblings training. The film is directed by Bennett Miller, whose previous films include award-season heavyweights Moneyball and Capote.
In an unusual coincidence, each of these three films opens to the public on Dec. 20.
Festival passes are on sale now at AFI.com/AFIFEST.
Check out an image of Carell in Foxcatcher below, along with trailers for Saving Mr. Banks and Inside Llewyn Davis.