Fox Searchlight Pictures Presidents Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula announced today that the company has acquired most worldwide rights including North America and the United Kingdom to Belle, inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle. Directed by BAFTA Award winner Amma Asante and written by Misan Sagay, Belle features Gugu Mbatha-Raw in her first starring role along with Academy Award nominee Tom Wilkinson, Academy Award nominee Emily Watson, Sarah Gadon, Penelope Wilton, Academy Award nominee Miranda Richardson, Tom Felton and Matthew Goode. The film was produced by Damian Jones. The film is scheduled to be released in Spring 2014.
Here's what Fox Searchlight presidents Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula had to say about the project in a joint statement.
"Gugu Mbatha-Raw is a revelation as Belle, she gives a brave and powerful performance joined by an outstanding ensemble cast and we look forward to introducing her to film audiences everywhere. We were entranced by this inspiring story of love and perseverance during a time of significant social and legal changes."
Director Amma Asante also released her own statement about the acquisition.
"The experience and sensibilities of the team at Fox Searchlight make it a wonderful match for Belle. I am so pleased their passion for this film means it now has the ability to be seen by audiences worldwide. We've worked hard to turn historical facts of the life of a true pioneer into a compelling and moving cinema experience."
Producer Damian Jones talked about working with Fox Searchlight in his own statement.
"We are thrilled this magnificent film has found the perfect home. The Fox Searchlight team's understanding of the film and its potential makes for an incredibly exciting journey through release and beyond."
Belle is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral. Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle's lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing. Left to wonder if she will ever find love, Belle falls for an idealistic young vicar's son bent on change who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield's role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England.
The deal was brokered by Fox Searchlight's Vice President of Acquisitions Ray Strache, Senior Vice President of Business Affairs Megan O'Brien and Executive Vice President of Worldwide Acquisitions Tony Safford with Bankside Films' Co-Managing Director Hilary Davis and Head of Sales & Marketing Stephen Kelliher and Christos Michaels of Lee & Thompson, as well as Steve Christian on behalf of Isle of Man Film and Pinewood Pictures. The film was developed by the BFI Film Fund which also backed production, alongside Isle of Man Film, Pinewood Pictures, Head Gear Films and Metrol Technology.
Fox Searchlight Pictures is a specialty film company that both finances and acquires motion pictures. It has its own marketing and distribution operations, and its films are distributed internationally by Twentieth Century Fox. Fox Searchlight Pictures is a unit of Twentieth Century Fox.