Clooney Times Three In London Film Festival

George Clooney departs from the Excelsior Hotel during the 66th Venice Film Festival on September 8, 2009 in Venice, Italy George Clooney departs from the Excelsior Hotel during the 66th Venice Film Festival on September 8, 2009 in Venice, Italy

 This year’s London Film Festival is big on British talent, international auteurs — and George Clooney.

Organizers on Wednesday announced the lineup for next month’s festival, which includes 191 features and 113 shorts from almost 50 countries.

Clooney stars in three of them, including the Oct. 14 opening gala, the world premiere of “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” Clooney voices the title character in Wes Anderson’s animated adaptation of the Roald Dahl children’s story about a community of burrowing animals.

Clooney also stars in “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” as a self-proclaimed “Jedi warrior” leading paranormal experiments for the U.S. military, and as a smooth management consultant in Jason Reitman’s “Up in the Air.”

Festival artistic director Sandra Hebron said Clooney’s presence provided the closest thing there is to a theme in the cinematic feast on offer at the 53rd annual festival.

“There are three George Clooney films and four films with nuns in them. That’s about it,” she said.

If there is a theme, she said, it’s “the return of the auteur.”

Some of the biggest names in world cinema are in a lineup that includes Austrian director Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon,” which won the top prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival; gripping prison drama “A Prophet” from France’s Jacques Audiard; Jane Campion’s visually ravishing John Keats biopic “Bright Star”; “Steven Soderbergh’s whistle-blower saga “The Informant”; Ang Lee’s nostalgic “Taking Woodstock”; Joel and Ethan Coen’s “A Serious Man”; and Lone Scherfig’s “An Education,” the Nick Hornby-scripted story about a teenager coming of age in the 1960s.

London is one of the world’s oldest film festivals, and is trying to raise its international profile. There are 15 world premieres on this year’s slate, alongside the pick of British and world cinema from the past year.

Among the stars lined up to attend are Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Julianne Moore and Emma Thompson.

For the first time, the London festival will hand out a best-picture award in a bid to sit alongside prize-giving rival festivals such as Toronto or Sundance.

Amanda Nevill, director of festival organizer the British Film Institute, said her goal was “to take the (London) film festival into the top tier.”

British films in the schedule include Lucy Bailey’s hard-hitting documentary “Mugabe and the White African”; Julien Temple’s rock-doc “Oil City Confidential”; and “Nowhere Boy,” Sam Taylor-Wood’s film about the young John Lennon, which closes the festival on Oct. 29.

Actor David Morrissey (“Red Riding,” '‘The Other Boleyn Girl”) appears in “Nowhere Boy” and is also at the festival with his debut feature as director, “Don’t Worry About Me.”

Shot in three weeks for 100,000 pounds ($160,000), it is the story of a southern boy and a northern girl adrift in Morrissey’s home city of Liverpool. Partly about England’s north-south divide, it’s also, Morrissey said, “about the sexes. About how men and women fall into roles — accidentally but also emotionally.”

Morrissey, who has directed two shorts, said he felt “quite ill, but also excited” when the trailer for his film was screened to hundreds of journalists at the festival press launch.

“Its inclusion in the festival is a stamp of approval for me, which I’m delighted about,” he said.

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