Awards season kicks off as the festival curtain falls

By Alynda Wheat
Updated September 23, 2015 04:45 PM
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Credit: Peter Hapak

While others debate whether he should play Bond, Idris Elba may already have moved on to Oscar. The Brit is so effective as the svengali-like commandant in Beasts of No Nation, whose charisma is only matched by his brutality, that there’s already Academy Award chatter.

“It was a horrible, despicable character, let’s just be honest,” Elba told PEOPLE of his role, the leader of a ragtag band of soldiers, including children. (The film introduces the phenomenal Abraham Attah as Agu, a boy conscripted by the commandant’s army.)

But Elba was just one of many stars who wrapped up the 40th Toronto International Film Festival with terrific odds heading into awards season. A special portfolio by photographer Peter Hapak in PEOPLE’s new issue showcases several of the stars with the biggest buzz.

Alicia Vikander and Eddie Redmayne dropped by PEOPLE’s photo and video studio to talk about The Danish Girl, their period piece about artist Lili Elbe, one of the first people to undergo male-to-female transgender surgery. Of course, Redmayne won an Oscar last year for his portrayal of physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything – which also premiered in Toronto.

The Danish Girl‘s script was “profoundly moving,” said Redmayne, who added that the film is “a story about love and what it takes to be authentic – what it takes to be yourself.”

Still, don’t count out Johnny Depp as gangster Whitey Bulger in Black Mass or Matt Damon, who plays a botanist stranded on Mars in the thrilling sci-fi epic The Martian. Damon not only delivers an amazing turn as a man accidentally left behind by his astronaut team, led by Jessica Chastain, but the all-star cast relied on state-of-the-art special effects to simulate space – and a few low-tech tricks.

“You act while you’re standing on one foot and moving slowly,” Damon said. “It’s totally, totally ridiculous, but you can’t tell!”

But enough about the guys. Toronto also gave women plenty of room to shine never more so than in Room. Some of the most enthusiastic cheers coming out of the festival were for Brie Larson, star of the touching drama about a woman kidnapped then locked in a room for years, along with the son she delivers in captivity. In fact, Room, based on Emma Donoghue’s novel, won Toronto’s People’s Choice Award. That’s as sure a signal as any that the film and its stars, including Joan Allen and Jacob Tremblay (as Larson’s son), are awards-season front-runners.

[IMAGE “3” “” “std” ]Emily Blunt also earned awards talk in the gut-punching drug thriller Sicario; as did no less than Sandra Bullock, playing a canny political campaign consultant in Our Brand Is Crisis, produced by George Clooney. Not that Bullock, at least, seems all that worried about the long march that is awards season. Said the busy mom to son Louis, 5, “I’m just looking to make it into the carpool lane on time, and not get fussed at!”

For our exclusive Toronto Film Festival photo portfolio, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday