A Year After ‘Birth of a Nation,’ Fox Searchlight Lines Up Oscar Season Players

Fox Searchlight Lines Up Oscar Season
Fox Searchlight

One year ago, Fox Searchlight Pictures sat primed for awards season with a sure-fire contender in Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation.” On the heels of a pricey pick-up at the Sundance Film Festival, riding the ongoing wave of a diversity rally cry, the distributor that had claimed the best picture trophy two out of the previous three years was poised to dominate.

To say the least, none of that panned out as planned. And there was little else remaining in the quiver. Searchlight was ultimately left with a Toronto acquisition (Pablo Larrain’s “Jackie”) and an uncharacteristically modest showing on the circuit.

But the mini-major has been busy lining up its players for a 2017 comeback. Over the last several weeks, Searchlight has set release dates for three films in the thick of the season: “Battle of the Sexes,” from “Little Miss Sunshine” duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, will land just after the Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 22; Martin McDonagh’s “Seven Psychopaths” follow-up “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” hits on Oct. 13; and Guillermo del Toro’s Cold War fairy tale “The Shape of Water” arrives just in time for the holidays on Dec. 8.


How Nate Parker’s ‘Birth of a Nation’ Got Swallowed Up — and Defined — by Everything Outside of It

Dayton and Faris’ film, about the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, appears the most likely to parlay an early fall festival profile into instant status on the circuit. Written by “Slumdog Millionaire” scribe Simon Beaufoy, it stars reigning best actress champ Emma Stone and Steve Carell.

McDonagh’s latest is more of a question mark. While the writer-director is already an Oscar winner in the short film category, his brand of dark humor in features hasn’t appealed broadly to the Academy yet. He did, however, pick up an original screenplay nomination for 2008’s “In Bruges.” And Searchlight has certainly given his film prime real estate on the calendar this year. He’s quickly rallied a stable of committed performers willing to follow him into the trenches, Abbie Cornish, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell among them, but Frances McDormand looks like a hilarious stand-out in this one.

Finally, while Del Toro’s work hasn’t found an Oscar foothold since 2006’s “Pan’s Labyrinth,” he maintains a dedicated fan base. Sally Hawkins leads his new film, about a lonely government laboratory worker whose life is changed forever when she and a co-worker (played by Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified document. Oscar nominees Michael Shannon and Richard Jenkins also star.

Sundance acquisition “Patti Cake$” and Roger Michell’s “My Cousin Rachel,” with Rachel Weisz, are also on deck for summer releases. Simon Curtis’ “Goodbye Christopher Robin,” meanwhile — a behind-the-scenes look at the life of Winnie the Pooh creator A.A. Milne — has already been set for a Nov. 11 release.

It’s a varied lineup, and a far cry from banking on a single hot prospect that would ultimately become a ticking PR time bomb. But how will these films, from a three-time best picture champ, register when the season finally rolls around?

Stay tuned…

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  1. dewayne stotts says:

    Lol you people are stupid ha ha that jackass president hasn’t done anything in 100 days but stick his foot in his mouth and talk a bunch of horse shit. Supreme court nominee helping every American my ass ha ha is that guy gonna pay my rent this month lol that’s a joke. He need to deactivated his Twitter account before it completely makes more of an idiot it already has. Geraldo rivera is the only guest you had on all night that had the guys to tell the truth and that girl on with him couldn’t stand it. It don’t take a genius to see its obvious he’s tied in with Russia and flynn and deep down you all know it whether you admit it or not. That’s ok yall and spicer keep studdering ha ha

  2. For whitin is colloquium in other cases of should be omitted.

  3. Matt says:

    None of these feel like a sure thing for FSL but Three Billboards is going to get great reviews so I’d bet on that one for now.

  4. “The Birth of Nation” showed how racist the gender-feminist terrorists who dominate Hollywood are. They could not even let a black man celebrate the ending of slavery in America. Instead the gender-feminist terrorists who run Hollywood and spread heterophobia and misandry falsely accused him, and by association, all black men of being rapists. Hollywood is the homeland of the new Ku Klux Klan – misandrist gender-feminists.

    • Steve says:

      Hm. MRA?

    • James says:

      such bs. by association, all back men are rapists? the audience didn’t show up because it wasn’t interested, not because of the “scandal.” In addition it was an overrated movie that didn’t deserve awards. Everyone at Sundance got caught up in the hype.

  5. tlsnyder42 says:

    BIRTH OF A NATION was a horrible movie that justified Islamic/leftist beheadings of people they hate. They should have made a movie about Harriet Tubman instead. Nate Turner was a mentally disturbed man if you research the “visions” that led him to do what he did. So, the movie was a complete “whitewash” – pun intended.

    • Tender Puppy! says:

      I agree, where the hell is the Harriet Tubman biopic? They’ll probably cast Viola Davis in that one to get her the lead best actress statuette, which I’m all for since she should’ve been the lead winner for Fences anyhow. And if they don’t cast her, then it’s a near surefire win for whomever they do cast.

      • Len says:

        Viola Davis is slated to produce/star in HBO pic of Harriet Tubman in 2018. A Black British actress has been cast to play Tubman in a theatrical movie. Two Tubman movies is one two many

      • Tender Puppy! says:

        Ha! Nailed it. Although I wish it wasn’t a TV movie….And the woman’s name is Cynthia Ervio.

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