Aussie stars to shine at London Film Festival as Australian-born festival director makes debut

Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman and Jacob Elordi will be among the Aussie names seen on screen during this year’s London Film Festival.

The 2023 program was announced at the British Film Institute’s Southbank facility on Thursday, with uncertainty in the air over whether any of the big names will attend the October event in the UK in person.

While the Hollywood strikes have left the Venice Film Festival red carpets with reduced glamour this week, it’s not something that worries the festival’s director, Australian Kristy Matheson, who makes her debut at the helm of the big event.

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BFI Festivals Director Kristy Matheson attends the London Film Festival 2023 programme launch at BFI Southbank on August 31, 2023 in London

“We are just proceeding in the same knowledge that, really, everyone else has and, for us, it’s really about focusing on the films,” Matheson tells 9Honey at the launch event in London.

“When it comes to guests, we always think about that [but] they’re sort of the later part of the puzzle.

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“So, for us, we just put our head down and try to put together a program that we feel audiences will really engage with.”

Matheson, who has previously worked on the Brisbane and Sydney Film Festivals before relocating to Scotland to head up the Edinburgh Film Festival, jokes that “there are still a lot of words that I don’t understand” after years spent in the UK.

Director Warwick Thornton and actress Cate Blanchett spoke to guests at a screening of The New Boy at Nova Cinemas in Carlton on 01 July 2023Cate Blanchett stars in Australian movie 'The New Boy'

But the expat says watching movies from home brings her comfort.

“I feel like Australia definitely punches above its weight in terms of filmmaking talent,” Matheson tells 9Honey Celebrity.

“We have a lot of filmmaking talent in Australia. But I can’t lie, it is always so wonderful and feels very comforting to see work from home and I think the films that we’ve got in the festival this year are a really great showcase.”

Blanchett’s movie The New Boy, is set in 1940s Australia and sees the Oscar-winning actress play a nun who presides over Indigenous boys orphaned by the authorities. Directed by Warwick Thornton, it also stars Deborah Mailman and Aswan Reid.

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Nicole Kidman in the limited series 'Expats'

Kidman will be seen in an episode of the limited series Expats, which delves into the complex lives of Hong Kong’s wealthy expat community.

Aside from Australian films and stars in this year’s program, the notable theme through a lot of this year’s program is actors-turned-directors.

The film Saltburn, by award-winning Promising Young Woman director and The Crown actress Emerald Fennell, will open the festival on October 4. The movie also boasts an all-star cast, including Elordi as well as Oscar-nominated Barry Keoghan, Rosamund Pike and Richard E. Grant.

Meanwhile fellow BAFTA and Oscar-winning actor Daniel Kaluuya makes his directorial debut at the closing gala in The Kitchen and Chris Pine makes his directorial debut in Poolman.

Chris Pine stars in his directorial debut, a comedy titled 'Poolman'Sir Anthony Hopkins in One Life

Fresh from making it’s debut at Venice, Bradley Cooper‘s second directorial effort, Maestro, which he also stars in alongside Carey Mulligan, will also form part of LFF’s headline movies.

Elsewhere on-screen, Sir Anthony Hopkins‘ new movie One Life will take the prominent American Express gala spot.

While Fleabag star Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal team up for the highly anticipated headline gala, All of Us Strangers.

Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal in ALL OF US STRANGERS

Killing Eve star Jodie Comer has two films in the festival, while other big names include Michael Fassbender, Anne Hathaway, Scarlett Johansson and Ozark’s Julia Garner.

In total, there’ll be 252 works across feature films, documentaries, short films, animated offerings and immersive experiences from 92 countries across the 12-day festival.