Oscar season heats up as J-Lo, Hanks and an imaginary Hitler head to Toronto | Film

Jennifer Lopez as a stripper, Tom Hanks as a much-loved children’s TV presenter, Fred Rogers, and Taika Waititi as Hitler are just three of the most anticipated performances to be revealed during this year’s Toronto film festival.

Last year saw Green Book premiere at the festival before later winning the best picture Oscar. A-listers will now be jostling for space in the hope that they, too, might receive that all-important awards boost.

One of the most anticipated titles of the festival is the fact-based drama Hustlers, which stars Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Lizzo and Cardi B as strippers using their wiles to rob their wealthy clientele. The film, which is tracking for an impressive $26m (£21m) opening weekend, is also getting early Oscar buzz for Lopez. “I think people forget that she’s such a gifted actor,” the writer-director Lorene Scafaria said to Variety. “I was so excited that she was going to play a character on top of that. In a way, the role fits her like a glove, but it’s also a glove with spikes on it.”

It’s one of many films at the festival directed by a woman, at odds with the lack of gender parity reflected in the lineup at Venice this year. Marielle Heller, director of Can You Ever Forgive Me?, will also bring her latest film to Toronto, the biographical drama A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks as the children’s TV personality Mister Rogers. They will both be joined by Kasi Lemmons’ Harriet Tubman biopic starring Cynthia Erivo; Persepolis director Marjane Satrapi’s Marie Curie biopic Radioactive with Rosamund Pike; and Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s drama The Friend, starring Casey Affleck and Dakota Johnson.

One of the festival’s most curious inclusions comes from the New Zealand film-maker Taika Waititi, known for the vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows and more recently Thor: Ragnarok. His latest, Jojo Rabbit, is a second world war comedy, described as “an anti-hate satire” about a young boy who befriends an imaginary Adolf Hitler, played by Waititi.

“Of course there’s a line,” Waititi said about potential controversy. “There’s always a line. But for me I think I find it naturally; what would I feel embarrassed to show people? Then I wouldn’t put it in. If there’s any time I feel like something is inappropriate I pull back.” The film also stars Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell and Rebel Wilson.

Nicole Kidman and Ansel Elgort in The Goldfinch

Nicole Kidman and Ansel Elgort in The Goldfinch. Photograph: Pictorial Press/Alamy

Toronto will also be home to the world premiere of the Brooklyn director John Crowley’s much-anticipated adaptation of Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel The Goldfinch. It stars Ansel Elgort as a young man dealing with the death of his mother, who was killed in an explosion. Nicole Kidman, Sarah Paulson and Jeffrey Wright also star.

The Last Jedi and Looper director Rian Johnson will be unveiling his starry whodunnit Knives Out, an Agatha Christie homage starring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Lakeith Stanfield, Toni Colette and Christopher Plummer. “It all started with Daniel Craig, he was the first piece of the puzzle, kind of the central piece that clicked into place,” Johnson told the Observer. “Once we had him cast, suddenly we started making the movie, and so we are able to go out to all these amazing actors and say: hey, do you want to come out to Boston and have fun doing a murder mystery? We got very, very lucky.”

After premiering his irreverent satire The Death of Stalin at the festival in 2017 to great acclaim, Armando Iannucci returns to Toronto this year with his Charles Dickens adaptation The Personal History of David Copperfield, starring Dev Patel in the central role. Iannucci has called it “a film about compassion, humour, generosity and friendship”. Other British films at the festival include Ordinary Love with Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville as a couple dealing with cancer, and Michael Winterbottom’s Greed, starring Steve Coogan as a billionaire.

The 10-day festival arrives after both Venice and Telluride saw Oscar buzz growing for Renée Zellweger’s performance as Judy Garland in Judy, and Joaquin Phoenix’s take on the infamous DC villain in Joker. Both films will also play at Toronto.

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