If you had polled analysts and asked them which film had the Best Picture momentum going into Oscars season it would be Fox Searchlight's The Birth of a Nation, which they paid $17M for at Sundance. Obviously, due to continuing controversy over Nate Parker's past those chances have been derailed somewhat, and we may be seeing them look for another viable option because the distributor just picked up another major contender.
Fox Searchlight has acquired the rights to Pablo Larrain's Jackie Kennedy biopic, Jackie ,which already has people talking about a Best Actress win for Natalie Portman. The film got off to a great start at Venice with praise heaped upon Portman and a Best Screenplay award given to screenwriter Noah Oppenheim. The reviews out of Toronto have been just as glowing, setting off a bidding war to acquire the movie. Interestingly, Fox Searchlight had right of first refusal due to a prior contract situation, and they matched the final offer to make the acquisition.
Here's what Larrain had to say about the deal...
“I am delighted that Fox Searchlight will be releasing ‘Jackie’ Their movies have been an important influence on me as a filmmaker, and it is a personal achievement for me to have them bring this very special story of a beautiful, sophisticated and mysterious woman to the world. Jackie was the most unknown of the known women of the 20th century.”
Jackie, which boasts original director Darren Aronofsky as a producer, centers on the days following John F. Kennedy's assassination as she tries to cope with the national spotlight. Aronofsky and Fox Searchlight helped Portman win her first Academy Award for Black Swan, and clearly they are going to push hard for her to win again. They've given Jackie an awards-ready release date of December 9th, meaning Parker's movie is no longer their sole focus.