Hilary Swank on the red carpet at the Mill Valley...

Hilary Swank on the red carpet at the Mill Valley Film Festival on Oct. 2, 2014 in Mill Valley, Calif. Credit: Getty Images / Steve Jennings

It's always hard to count the celebrities at the Hamptons International Film Festival, but this year marks a record of sorts. Along with the stars expected to attend screenings -- which include several potentially Oscar-nominated films -- the festival has booked five guests for its ongoing series, "A Conversation With . . . ." Last year's series featured only two.

"It's a historical first," says Anne Chaisson, the festival's executive director. "It always just depends on what's happening with the films and who can come to town. Sometimes things just work out."

Boldface names like Hilary Swank and Mark Ruffalo help the festival draw attention to its other worthwhile films and events. One is a focus on Chinese cinema -- a hot topic in Hollywood, given the country's increasing box-office power -- which includes the U.S. premiere of Zhang Yimou's new drama, "Coming Home." Another is a series of free talks at East Hampton's Rowdy Hall restaurant, where Oscar-nominated filmmaker Oren Moverman will discuss his latest release, "Time Out of Mind" (its star, Richard Gere, is expected to attend a screening). The festival's overall lineup includes 127 movies from more than 29 countries.

Here are highlights of the 22nd Hamptons festival, which opens Thursday. All times listed are after noon; many films will screen more than once.

St. Vincent (Thursday at 7:30 at Guild Hall in East Hampton) In the festival's opening-night film, Bill Murray plays a dissolute war veteran who begins baby-sitting a preteen boy.

The Look of Silence (Friday at 1 at Regal East Hampton Cinema) Decades after Indonesia's ethnic cleansing, a man confronts his brother's killer in this documentary by Joshua Oppenheimer, a newly minted MacArthur Fellow.

Diplomacy (Friday at 4:15 at Regal) In August 1944, Nazi General Dietrich von Choltitz (Niels Arestrup) considers flattening Paris. Directed by Volker Schlondorff ("The Tin Drum"), a sometime Amagansett resident.

Gabriel (Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Sag Harbor Cinema) The title character is a mentally ill young man (Rory Culkin, expected to attend the festival) who is determined to propose to his estranged girlfriend. Shot in Suffolk County.

Nightcrawler (Friday at 9:30 at Regal) Strong word-of-mouth is already greeting this pulpy-looking drama about freelance crime reporters in Los Angeles. With Jake Gyllenhaal.

Foxcatcher (Saturday at 9 at Guild Hall) Steve Carell plays against type as an unstable millionaire in a true-life drama from director Bennett Miller ("Capote"), who is expected to attend the festival.

Happy Valley (Sunday at 3:45 at Regal) Amir Bar-Lev's documentary on the Penn State child molestation scandal was acquired by Music Box Films last week. Its release date is Nov. 21.

Mr. Turner (Sunday at 5:15 at Regal) Timothy Spall ("The King's Speech") won the Palme d'Or at Cannes for his simmering portrayal of 19th century painter J.M.W. Turner. Directed by Mike Leigh ("Secrets and Lies").

Birdman (Sunday at 9 at Guild Hall) Michael Keaton plays an actor who once portrayed an iconic superhero -- hmmm -- and wants to make a comeback. Edward Norton co-stars as a notoriously difficult actor -- double-hmmm. With Emma Stone.

Still Alice (Monday at 7 at Guild Hall) In the festival's closing-night film, a psychologist is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. With Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin and Kristen Stewart.


Celebrities chat it up

The Hamptons International Film Festival's series of live interviews, "A Conversation With . . . ," has more guests this year than ever. They'll appear at the Bay Street Theatre on the Long Wharf at Sag Harbor over the weekend. Tickets are $30. Here's a list of who's coming.

Patricia Clarkson, Friday at 2 p.m. The late-blooming actress was 39 when she starred in the indie drama "High Art." Now she's playing opposite Ben Kingsley in one of the festival's spotlight films, "Learning to Drive."

Joel Schumacher, Saturday at 11 a.m. The director whose credits range from 1985's "St. Elmo's Fire" to the Netflix series "House of Cards" will receive the Golden Starfish Lifetime Achievement in Directing Award.

Laura Dern, Saturday at 1 p.m. Dern, a star of this year's Southampton Opening Night Film, "Wild," will take the same stage where her father, Bruce, spoke last year.

Mark Ruffalo, Sunday at noon. The actor stars opposite Channing Tatum and Steve Carell in the much-talked about drama "Foxcatcher," a festival spotlight film.

Hilary Swank, Sunday at 3 p.m. The two-time Oscar-winning actress plays a pioneer woman opposite Tommy Lee Jones (also directing) in "The Homesman," a festival spotlight film.

Hamptons International Film Festival

WHEN | WHERE Thursday through Monday at venues throughout the East End.

TICKETS For individual films: $15-$30. Passes are $125-$1,500.

INFO 212-279-4200 or go to hamptonsfilmfest.org

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