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Fox Searchlight Buys ‘Jackie’ as Natalie Portman Enters the Oscar Race

In the first major deal to emerge out of the Toronto Film Festival, Fox Searchlight has picked up U.S. distribution rights to “Jackie,” the critically beloved drama starring Natalie Portman as iconic first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

The movie, directed by Pablo Larrain, came to Toronto from Venice, where it was instantly dubbed an awards season contender. Natalie Portman is considered a lock for a best actress Oscar nomination for what many are describing as her best performance to date. The movie will open on Dec. 9, 2016, a prime spot for prestige titles hoping to garner Academy Awards attention.

Fox Searchlight controlled a first and last option on the film based on having been attached to an earlier version that Darren Aronofsky was going to direct. Sources tell Variety that Searchlight wanted the movie in part because it could fill a void in the boutique label’s awards slate if “The Birth of a Nation” doesn’t become an Oscars heavyweight. That drama, directed by and starring Nate Parker, continued to be sidelined by controversy at Toronto, after a tense press conference where reporters grilled Parker about a rape trial from his past.

Jackie” had other interested buyers, who saw the movie for the first time at the Sunday premiere in Toronto, including Netflix, Amazon Studios and EuropaCorp. But some of the distributors told Variety they worried that Larrain’s art-house touches may not connect with enough ticket buyers to offset the high asking price (which at one point was said to be north of $10 million for worldwide rights). “Jackie” isn’t a traditional biopic, as it’s told through flashbacks after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

The cast includes Peter Sarsgaard as Robert Kennedy, Greta Gerwig and Billy Crudup. Noah Oppenheimer wrote the script.

CAA negotiated the sale.

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