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Film News Roundup: Jon Bernthal Joins Williams Sisters’ Tennis Drama ‘King Richard’

In today’s film news roundup, Jon Bernthal is cast in “King Richard,” FilmFreeway sets a Toronto Film Festival deal and “Phoenix, Oregon” gets distribution.

CASTING

Jon Bernthal is in talks to star as tennis coach Rick Macci in Warner Bros.’ “King Richard” opposite Will Smith.

Reinaldo Marcus Green is directing the drama, written by Zach Baylin, about Richard Williams helping daughters Venus and Serena Williams to become tennis stars. Smith plays Richard Williams, who enlisted Macci to train the daughters — to be played by Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton — when they were 9 and 10 years old.

“King Richard” is produced by Tim White, Trevor White and James Lassiter with Allan Mandelbaum, Jada Pinkett Smith and Caleeb Pinkett as executive producers. Warner Bros. has set the film for a Nov. 25 release.

Bernthal portrayed Lee Iacocca in “Ford v Ferrari” and is starring in “The Sopranos” prequel “The Many Saints of Newark.” He’s repped by WME. The news was first reported by Deadline.

FILM FESTIVAL

Popular on Variety

FilmFreeway has entered into an exclusive agreement with the Toronto Intl. Film Festival to handle all films submitted to the festival through 2022.

The announcement was made by Zachary Jones, CTO and co-founder of FilmFreeway, and Cameron Bailey, artistic director and co-head of TIFF. Submissions for the 2020 festival officially open on filmfreeway.com on Feb. 11. FilmFreeway launched in 2014.

“FilmFreeway is where filmmakers go to discover and enter film festivals,” Bailey said. “The reliable and user-friendly submission experience that FilmFreeway provides aligns with our mission and will help us reach and better serve diverse groups of storytellers from all over the world.”

ACQUISITION

Distribution and marketing company Aspiration Entertainment has acquired North American distribution rights for indie comedy “Phoenix, Oregon,” Variety has learned exclusively.

The film stars James Le Gros, Jesse Borrego, Lisa Edelstein, Reynaldo Gallegos, Diedrich Bader and Kevin Corrigan. The story centers on two friends, a graphic novelist and a chef, who seize an unlikely opportunity to reinvent their lives, quitting their service industry jobs to restore an old bowling alley and serve the world’s greatest pizza.

Gary Lundgren directed with Annie Lundgren and Luis Rodriguez producing. “Phoenix, Oregon” is presented by Joma Films in association with Pied Piper Productions, Lui-G Films and Sunset Dynamics.

Aspiration, in association with Ryan Bruce Levey Film Distribution and Joma Films, will release the film theatrically beginning March 20. Aspiration will distribute the film digitally in June.

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