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As Toronto Kicks Off, Bidders are Buzzing About ‘Jackie’

As the Toronto Film Festival kicks into high gear, buyers are landing in Canada in search of the right movies to add to their slates. But one title that has piqued the interest of many distributors is “Jackie,” the Natalie Portman drama about iconic first lady Jacqueline Kennedy that premiered in Venice earlier this week to stellar reviews.

As a result, “Jackie” has become one of the most buzzed about films for sale at Toronto. CAA is handling the deal.

The movie, directed by Pablo Larrain and written by Noah Oppenheim, won’t premiere until Sunday night, but it already has a long list of distributors eagerly waiting to see the finished picture. Amazon Studios and Netflix are interested in “Jackie,” as are Sony Pictures Classics and Open Road, sources close to the companies tell Variety.

Fox Searchlight has a first and last option on the film based on having been attached to an earlier version that Darren Aronofsky was going to direct. Two sources tell Variety that Searchlight wants the movie, which could fill a void in the boutique label’s awards slate this year if “The Birth of a Nation” doesn’t become an Oscars heavyweight because of the controversy surrounding its star and director Nate Parker.

The release strategy for “Birth” will be become clearer over the weekend, as Parker holds a press conference and fields more questions about the film and his past. In 1999, as an undergraduate at Penn State, he was charged with raping a 18-year-old classmate. Although he was acquitted, questions about the case persist, which could result in Academy voters not to backing the historical drama about Nat Turner.

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There are other Oscar favorites at Toronto too — like “Manchester By the Sea,” “Loving” and “La La Land” — but they already have distribution deals. If “Jackie” opens in 2016, awards prognosticators are already predicting a best actress nomination for Portman, who won an Oscar in 2011 for her performance in “Black Swan.”

Bidding for “Jackie” is expecting to be competitive, but a deal may not close for a few more days, until the remaining players see the film.

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