Fox Searchlight nabs U.S. rights to 'Tree of Life'

Terrence Malick film to star Sean Penn, Brad Pitt; due in 2011

Toronto -- Fox Searchlight Pictures has acquired U.S. rights to Terrence Malick's eagerly awaited "The Tree of Life" from River Road Entertainment.

The fate of "Life," which stars Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain, had been left hanging when Bill Pohlad, who heads River Road, shut down distributor Apparition in the wake of Bob Berney's resignation in May.

At one time, the film had been rumored as a possible Cannes debut, but it wasn't completed in time for that festival. Then cineastes began hoping it would show up on the fall festival circuit, but it hasn't materialized there either.

Searchlight now says it will release the film in 2011.

In announcing the acquisition, Searchlight presidents Stephen Gilula and Nancy Utley said, "Terrence Malick has crafted a deeply moving, keenly observed and magisterial film. Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and the entire cast's performances are simply amazing. This is a signature film by a signature filmmaker and we are proud to be releasing it."

The film, which tells the story of a Midwestern family in the 1950s chronicling the journey of the eldest son, Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) from childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile his complicated relationship with his father, played by Pitt, was produced by Pohlad, Sarah Green, Pitt, Dede Gardner and Grant Hill.

"Terry Malick has given us another masterpiece that is both profoundly moving and stunningly beautiful," Pohlad said. "And there is no better partner than Fox Searchlight to bring this film to audiences. Their ability to distribute and market independent films with a passion and creativity is incredibly rare in our industry."

The deal was brokered for Searchlight by executive vp of worldwide acquisitions Tony Safford and senior vp of business affairs Megan O'Brien. Mitch Horwits, president of River Road Entertainment, negotiated on behalf of the company.