As actor-director Nate Parker spoke of a rape trial from his past in an interview recently, executives at Fox Searchlight Pictures, the distribution house of the film “The Birth of A Nation“, are scrambling to deal with the aftermath of his words.
The studio officials, who had planned to reach out to church groups, college campuses and prominent Hollywood figures, are now struggling as Parker not only stars in “The Birth of a Nation ” — he also wrote, directed and produced the film, reports variety.com.
The films division had spent $17.5 million for the drama about the 1831 slave rebellion led by Nate Turner. They hoped it would enter the zeitgeist at a time when racial issues are at the forefront of American politics.
“Fox Searchlight is aware of the incident that occurred while Nate Parker was at Penn State. We also know that he was found innocent and cleared of all charges. We stand behind Nate and are proud to help bring this important and powerful story to the screen,” a statement from the studio said.
Despite the fact that Parker was acquitted of the rape charges in 2001, there are still concerns inside Fox Searchlight that the complicated issues raised by the case could overshadow a movie that was expected to be an Oscar front-runner.
Parker’s co-writer on the film, Jean Celestin, was found guilty of sexually assaulting the same 18-year-old female, who claimed to be unconscious, after a night of drinking.
Celestin appealed the verdict and was granted a new trial in 2005, but the case never made it back to court after the victim decided not to testify again.