Fox Searchlight has no plans to remove Nate Parker from the upcoming press junkets for his film “The Birth of a Nation” despite the headlines surrounding the rape accusations against him, when he was a student at Penn State.
According to Variety, he will be front and center at the film’s Toronto Film Festival premiere next month, and participate in a scheduled media junket.
He will also remain on the bill as scheduled during upcoming promotions in Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston and San Francisco.
Although there has been speculation that the controversy surrounding news of the 2001 rape trial would imperil “The Birth of a Nation’s” Oscar chances, Fox Searchlight management considers that a secondary concern, sources say. The company, which is opening the movie wide on Oct. 7, as planned, is more interested in the film being a commercial success than it is with capturing awards. Fox spent a whopping $17.5 million to acquire the picture at Sundance and is prepared to make a “big media spend,” according to a source familiar with the plans.
Parker stuck to his schedule in the immediate aftermath of news breaking about the 1999 rape case, in which he was acquitted. He received a Vanguard Award Thursday night from the Sundance Institute, which had supported the making of “Birth of a Nation” through its Feature Film Program. The organization also announced the creation of a Sundance Institute/Birth of a Nation Fellowship, to be awarded to young filmmakers.
Over the weekend, he and Aja Naomi King (who plays Turner’s wife in the film) had a Q&A with Spike Lee at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival.
That part of Parker’s history has been on his Wikipedia page and on several websites, though it was not widely known throughout the industry. This week, however, news broke that Parker and Jean Celestin’s accuser committed suicide in 2012.
In a Facebook post, Parker said he was “devastated” by the news of her death, while maintaining his innocence.
Even though Fox Searchlight is moving forward with its publicity plans, it is getting help from an outside crisis P.R. firm that is routinely enlisted by its parent company, 21st Century Fox.