LONDON – Fox Searchlight Pictures has inked a deal for North American and U.K. rights to BAFTA Award winner Amma Asante‘s Belle, inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy admiral.
Penned by Misan Sagay, Belle features Gugu Mbatha-Raw in her first starring role with an ensemble cast, which includes Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, Sarah Gadon, Penelope Wilton, Miranda Richardson, Tom Felton and Matthew Goode.
Fox Searchlight Pictures presidents Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula announced the deal Monday. The film is produced by Damian Jones and scheduled to be released in spring 2014.
The Fox pair described Mbatha-Raw’s turn as Belle as “a revelation,” calling the film an “inspiring story of love and perseverance during a time of significant social and legal changes.”
Raised by an aristocratic great-uncle and his wife, Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of people of her social standing, according to a description of the film.
Left to wonder if she will ever find love, Belle falls for an idealistic young vicar’s son bent on change who, with her help, manages to help bring about the end of slavery in England.
The deal was brokered by Fox Searchlight vp of acquisitions Ray Strache, senior vp of business affairs Megan O’Brien and executive vp of worldwide acquisitions Tony Safford with Bankside Films’ co-managing director Hilary Davis and head of sales and marketing Stephen Kelliher and Christos Michaels of Lee & Thompson, as well as Steve Christian on behalf of Isle of Man Film and Pinewood Pictures.
The film was developed by the BFI Film Fund, which also backed production, alongside Isle of Man Film, Pinewood Pictures, Head Gear Films and Metrol Technology.