EXCLUSIVE: Hoping to duplicate the feat Jeff Bridges pulled off last year when he became a surprise last minute entry into the Oscar race — and winner — with Crazy Heart, Halle Berry is launching an awards season qualifying run for her indie effort Frankie & Alice. It opens December 17 in New York and Los Angeles before its regular theatrical release set for February 4 in the top 20 markets (shortly after nominations are announced). Freestyle Releasing will handle distribution with P and A reportedly provided by private funding the producers raised. Berry is also a producer on the 1970s–set psychological drama, a true story in which she plays a woman suffering with multiple personality disorder, exactly the kind of meaty role (and Oscar bait) that actors covet. Berry, an Oscar winner for Monster’s Ball (2001) has shepherded this as a “passion project” and is said to feel this is her best work since Ball — hence the awards push. I’m told 10,000 DVD screeners will go out to the entire Academy, critics groups, SAG Nominating Committee and others. As one of the more visible aspects of the campaign, Berry will be a prominent part of this year’s AFI Fest on November 9 in ”A Conversation With Halle Berry.”
The Best Actress race is already overcrowded this year with a boatload of contenders all jockeying for attention including Jennifer Lawrence, Annette Bening, Tilda Swinton, Julianne Moore, Diane Lane, Hillary Swank, Sally Hawkins, Noomi Rapace, Anne Hathaway, Natalie Portman, Nicole Kidman, Lesley Manville and Michelle Williams – to name a few. Whether it might have been wiser to wait until next year remains to be seen but this is an especially tough field. The last minute stealth entry could be an effective strategy but she will also be vying for attention with Kidman’s Rabbit Hole opening on the same day, with Lionsgate employing a similar strategy for their well-reviewed Toronto Fest pickup. Like Berry, Kidman is also a producer on her film.
“Bringing this story to the big screen has been a challenging, yet very satisfying, filmmaking experience,” Berry says. “Her struggles with mental illness came at a time when the medical community and the public were still grappling with the veracity of multiple personality disorder, and I approached this role with feelings of humility, yet great responsibility.”
Geoffrey Sax directed from a script by Cheryl Edwards and Marko King & Mary King & Jonathan Watters and Joe Shrapnel & Anna Waterhouse (story by Edwards and Oscar Janiger and Phillip Goldberg). Producers also include Berry’s partner Vincent Cirrincione, Hassain Zaidi and Simon DeKaric. Tom Ortenberg’s One Way Out Media is reportedly consulting on marketing plans. Ortenberg worked with Berry on the successful Monster’s Ball campaign when he was at Lionsgate.
Berry’s films since winning the Oscar include the Bond entry Die Another Day, the X-Men films, Catwoman, Perfect Stranger and Things We Lost In The Fire.
Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.