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Relativity Buys ‘Machine Gun Preacher’ From Lionsgate In Hopes Of Getting Gerard Butler An Oscar Nom

Relativity Buys 'Machine Gun Preacher' From Lionsgate In Hopes Of Getting Gerard Butler An Oscar Nom

Considering his run of recent performances… actually, let’s strike that and start again. Considering almost every performance he’s ever given, ever, perhaps bar a decent vocal turn in “How To Train Your Dragon,” the idea of Gerard Butler as a potential Oscar nominee is a bizarre one: this is, after all, the man who, in films like “Law Abiding Citizen,” “The Ugly Truth” and “The Bounty Hunter” has give some of the most wretched bits of acting in recent memory, and whose signature role is still King Shouty in “300.” But before the just-starting-to-gear-up awards season kicks off, it’s something that we could possibly end up seeing.

The actor’s on something of a mission to rehabilitate his image, having already turned in what is apparently a solid performance in Ralph Fiennes‘ Shakespeare adaptation “Coriolanus,” and he’s got a passion project on the way, producing and starring in “Machine Gun Preacher,” a biopic of Sam Childers, a former drug-dealing Hell’s Angel who found God, set up an orphanage in Sudan in the 1990s, and then formed a militia to prevent the children from being turned into child soldiers.

Butler plays Childer, with a decent cast including Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon, Kathy Baker and Souleymane Sy Savane in support, and Marc Forster, who had moderate success in the awards race a few years back with both “Monster’s Ball” and “Finding Neverland,” is at the helm, and lord knows the subject matter is right up the Academy’s alley, but even so, the film hadn’t really figured into the awards conversation so far. Indeed, Lionsgate, who acquired the rights a year ago, have a busy slate, and couldn’t afford to release the film until 2012. But things have changed: Deadline reports that Lionsgate has in fact passed the North American rights to “Machine Gun Preacher” to Relativity Media, who is planning a fall release and all the Oscar campaigning that goes with that.

Deadline says that “Forster might have pulled a performance out of Gerard Butler akin to the one Halle Berry turned in for ‘Monster’s Ball'” [something of a backhanded compliment], and the director, who’s just gearing up to to direct Brad Pitt in “World War Z,” personally asked Lionsgate to let the film, which is completed, move elsewhere, and newbies Relativity Media stepped in. The latter company is in need of a hit; of their self-released films, only “Limitless” made any kind of impression at the box office so far. Furthermore, they had a decent awards run with the similarly-toned “The Fighter” last year, although Paramount shared the push in that case.

We wouldn’t count ourselves as fans of either Forster or Butler, so this is a film we’d been cautious of, but we’re always happy to be wrong. We’ll see how the film turns out when it hits later in the fall: we’d count on a festival bow of some kind, almost certainly at Toronto, before then.

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