Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Relativity Media will be taking over from Lionsgate the North American distribution of the Marc Forster-directed Machine Gun Preacher. Relativity Media will set a fall release and is expected to platform the picture for Oscar season. Early word is that Forster might have pulled a performance out of Gerard Butler akin to the one Halle Berry turned in for Monster’s Ball.

The film is a fact-based drama about Sam Childers, a reformed badass who established an orphanage in war-torn Sudan and then supervised a militia to protect the kids who were being kidnapped to become child soldiers. Butler plays Childers, and Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon, Madeline Carroll, Kathy Baker and Souleymane Sy Savane also star. Jason Keller wrote the script that was based on the memoir Another Man‘s War: The True Story of One Man‘s Battle to Save Children in the Sudan.

Lionsgate acquired the film last June, and it is completed. The move involved a personal ask by Forster, who wanted the film to be released this year. Lionsgate has a crowded release schedule and just couldn’t do it. Forster and Lionsgate’s Joe Drake have a relationship that goes back to Monster’s Ball, and that is why this is happening. Lionsgate will still handle international rights on the film. It gives Relativity Media a horse in the Oscar race, after Ryan Kavanaugh’s company rode The Fighter pretty far last year.