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The Toronto International Film Festival has chosen “Looper,” director Rian Johnson’s “thinking-man actioner” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, to open its 10-day event starting Sept. 6. The film stars Gordon-Levitt as a time-traveling hired gun who’s been assigned the task of killing his future self (Willis).


It’s the second year in a row that the organization has opted for a non-Canadian movie as the first film of the prestigious event (last year was Davis Guggenheim’s U2 documentary). And it’s the second time Johnson (“Brick,” “The Brothers Bloom”) has had a film screen at Toronto.


“With ‘Looper,’ Rian has taken his filmmaking to a new level, and we can’t wait to present it to the Toronto audience in the most prestigious platform we can offer,” said Cameron Bailey, TIFF’s artistic director.


The movie is to kick off a festival scheduled to include films from directors Ben Affleck, Robert Redford, David O. Russell, Mira Nair and Terrence Malick. The festival is viewed by many as the unofficial start to the Oscar season.


Affleck’s 1970s CIA drama “Argo” will have its world premiere alongside Roger Michell’s “Hyde Park on Hudson,” which stars Bill Murray as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” a complicated family dramedy starring Bradley Cooper as a man recently released from a mental hospital.


TIFF 2012 is destined to be a busy time for Cooper, who should be in town also promoting Derek Cianfrance’s dramatic thriller “The Place Beyond the Pines,” the director’s follow-up to “Blue Valentine,” which also stars Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes.


Other stars set to be pulling double duty include Affleck, who should be dropping into town for “Argo” as well as Malick’s “To the Wonder,” in which he plays opposite Olga Kurylenko, Javier Bardem and Rachel McAdams in what’s described as an exploration of love.


Oscar-nominated screenwriter Stuart Blumberg (“The Kids Are All Right”) is making his directorial debut in “Thanks for Sharing” a romantic comedy starring Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins and Gwyneth Paltrow as a group of friends determined to recover from their sex addiction. Veteran actor Dustin Hoffman is also to make his long-awaited directorial debut with “Quartet,” a comedy about four retired opera singers, featuring the all-British cast of Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins.


Other films that have already garnered buzz at earlier festivals include Jacques Audiard’s “Rust and Bone,” a love story starring Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts that was well-liked in Cannes, and “The Sessions,” a Sundance title starring John Hawkes as a man confined to an iron lung, who at age 38 is determined to lose his virginity.


There are also to be offerings from Noah Baumbach, Neil Jordan and Greek filmmaker Costa Gavras, as well as the world premiere of the Wachowski siblings’ “Cloud Atlas,” starring Tom Hanks.


For a complete list of offerings and special presentations, go to www.tiff.net.

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