Scartlett Johansson for Jojo Rabbit and Marriage Story
Despite starring in some Oscar-winning films over the course of her career, Scartlett Johansson, 34, has never been nominated herself. That’s likely to change next year due to her acclaimed lead performance in Marriage Story and supporting work in Jojo Rabbit, both of which screened at TIFF.
Jojo Rabbit won the festival’s Audience Award, which in past years has gone to eventual Best Picture winners, including Green Book and Slumdog Millionaire.
The satirical comedy tells the story of lonely German boy JoJo “Rabbit” Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis), whose life is turned upside after discovering that his mother Rosie (Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic during World War II. The only person he feels he can truly count on is his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler (played by the film’s director Taika Waititi).
“It’s a parent’s job to protect their kids,” Johansson tells PEOPLE and EW. “I think that by not involving Roman’s character in the reality of what’s going on at home… I think I’m basically keeping him alive that way. I’ve never had a child in [a] film before. And then this year, I made two films where suddenly [I had] 10 and 11-year-olds — so I kind of became this insta-parent.”
Taika Waititi for Jojo Rabbit
Taika Waititi, 44, who’s hard at work on his second Thor movie, Thor: Love and Thunder, left TIFF a surefire Oscar contender for writing and directing the Audience Award winner Jojo Rabbit.
Eddie Murphy for Dolemite Is My Name
Eddie Murphy, 58, made a triumphant return to the spotlight in the Netflix film Dolemite Is My Name, which premiered in Toronto to rave reviews. He’s now favored to be nominated for his work as comedian Rudy Ray Moore, who used the character of Dolemite to become a Blaxploitation icon in the ’70s.
“You know that expression ‘turn lemons into lemonade’?,” Murphy describes of his character. “Rudy turned sh– into lemonade.”
Renée Zellwegger for Judy
But just how did she manage to inhabit one of the most legendary entertainers of all time — without letting the weight of that get her down? By mostly ignoring that aspect of Garland’s life, Zellweger, 50, says.
“I tried not to think too much about the obvious, which is how adored Judy is and has been through generations, and how she’s an icon for the ages,” Zellweger says. “I tried to take that off the table and look at it as an exploration of trying to understand the human experience on the other side of that stardom. I think otherwise I would’ve just run away.”
She’s picture above with costar Finn Wittrock, who portrays Garland’s fifth husband, Mickey Deans.
Antonio Banderas for Pain & Glory
Oscar buzz for Antonio Banderas began building in May at the Cannes Film Festival, where he collected the Best Actor prize for his work in friend Pedro Almodóvar’s new drama, Pain & Glory. The acclaim has only intensified since its Toronto premiere.
Pain & Glory is autobiographical for the Spanish filmmaker. Banderas, 59, who made his film debut in an Almodóvar film over 30 years ago, said he recognized things from their past in the script, and also learned things about the man who helped launch his career. The actor calls the film Almodóvar’s “confession.” There’s even one scene in the movie that Banderas took, in good humor, as an apology from the director to him.
“An emotional charge was around the set all the time,” Banderas says.
Ford v Ferrari
Oscar winners Matt Damon, 48, and Christian Bale, 45, team up for Ford v Ferrari, a race car drama that’s racing into awards season as a major contender.
Damon stars as American car designer Carroll Shelby and Bale as race car driver Ken Miles in this true-life inspired tale of how the two men teamed up to build a race car for Ford that was good enough to challenge Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1966.
“Where I really related to both guys, but particularly to Shelby [Damon’s character] was in this idea of cooperating with other people, collaborating with other people to make something that really matters to you,” Damon says. “That’s what we’ve all been doing for our entire adult lives and Christian’s entire childhood even… The thing isn’t as important as the passion is relatable to me and to us.”
Cynthia Erivo for Harriet
Tony winner Cynthia Erivo, 32, might soon be adding Academy Award nominee to her accolades.
She stars as Harriet Tubman in the biopic Harriet, which centers on the abolitionist who led scores of enslaved people to freedom on America’s Underground Railroad throughout the late 1800s.
Erivo says she focused on fusing the softness of Tubman’s personal life with the survivor spirit the real-life hero is known for.
“More than anything, we wanted to show the woman, so we looked into her family, her life, and her love,” she says.