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Why Natalie Portman’s Oscar Buzz in ‘Jackie’ Prompted TIFF’s Hottest Buy

Fox Searchlight grabbed the Toronto acquisition, starring Portman as the widow of John F. Kennedy, and will push her for a Best Actress Oscar nod.

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“Jackie”


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As expected, Fox Searchlight Pictures took advantage of its first and last dibs on Pablo Larraín’s hot acquisition title “Jackie” to acquire U.S. rights. “Jackie,” which tells the JFK assassination aftermath from the perspective of widow Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman), was not a TIFF debut; that honor went to Venice, where it was a hit and Noah Oppenheim won for best screenplay. However, it was TIFF’s Sunday night screening where the bidding began in earnest — and with it, the possibility that the Chilean filmmaker’s film would be an Oscar contender. (Chile has submitted his TIFF title “Neruda” as its official foreign language Oscar contender.)

Fox Searchlight will push the film into the awards season on December 9th, as they did in 2008 with “Jackie” producer Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler.” (Aronofsky developed “Jackie” with Searchlight before passing the reins to Larraín.) Other distribs were bidding Sunday night as Portman and other Oscar entrants — including Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”) and Joel Edgerton (“Loving”) —mingled at the Soho House after-party thrown by LD Entertainment’s Mickey Liddell, who financed the $9 million “Jackie.” Producer Juan De Dios Larraín indicated Monday night that the filmmakers had gone with the best distributor for the film.

Searchlight may be able to switch over some of the resources that were going to be applied to $17.5 million Sundance pickup “The Birth of a Nation,” which has been tainted with a Nate Parker college rape schedule, to “Jackie” instead. Other actresses vying for a Best Actress slot this year include Emma Stone (“La La Land”), Amy Adams (“Arrival”), Annette Bening (“20th Century Women”), Ruth Negga (“Loving”), Meryl Streep (“Florence Foster Jenkins”), Viola Davis (“Fences”) and Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”).

Oscar-winner Portman (Aronofsky’s “Black Swan”) stars with Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Hurt, and Peter Sarsgaard as Bobby Kennedy. Produced by Darren Aronofsky, Mickey Liddell, Scott Franklin, and Ari Handel, the film was shot in 16 mm by Stéphane Fontaine (“Rust and Bone”), edited by Sebastián Sepúlveda (“The Club”), with production design by Jean Rabasse (“The Dreamers”),  costume design by Madeline Fontaine (“Amelie”) and music by Mica Levi (“Under the Sun”).

Playing Jackie Kennedy was “definitely a different kind of challenge,” Portman told IndieWire’s Graham Winfrey during an interview about “Jackie” and TIFF entry “Planetarium.” “But at the same time you have more at your fingertips when it’s someone where there is so much material. It’s amazing to play a public figure who you really only know from the outside. I was familiar with her before I started working on this film as this fashion icon and I had a superficial impression of her. To look at a public person and try and understand her humanity is a great exercise. It’s great just to see a woman on film who is so many different things. She is allowed to be totally in control and totally vulnerable and weak and offering her own story and at the mercy of other people for defining who she is. She’s also wild and sexual and emotional and cold and reserved. It’s like a refraction that shows you an entire person and that’s what we need to see women as being. Every person has a million colors.”

READ MORE: ‘Jackie’ Isn’t the Whole Story: Why Pablo Larrain’s Films Deserve Your Attention

“Pablo Larraín’s ‘Jackie’ is a daring, one-of-a-kind cinematic portrayal of a beloved icon,” said Searchlight co-presidents Stephen Gilula and Nancy Utley. “Led by an indelible performance from Natalie Portman and supported by a richly talented ensemble of actors and artists, the film is one we are thrilled to bring to audiences later this year.”

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“I am delighted that Fox Searchlight will be releasing ‘Jackie,’” said Larraín, whose “NO” was nominated for Best Foreign Language film in 2013. “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.”

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