'Birth of a Nation' Skywriting Over Hollywood Touts "Nat Turner Lives"

The Birth of a Nation Skywriting 2 - Publicity - H 2016

Nate Parker's film about the slave rebellion leader hits theaters Friday.

Just two days ahead of the release of embattled director Nate Parker's film The Birth of a Nation, the skies of Hollywood were filled with Nat Turner.

The latest promotional effort for the film was a skywriting design that was painted above Runyon Canyon on Wednesday morning. It read: "Nat Turner Lives," while another line read: "The Birth of a Nation."

Parker's film, which he co-wrote, produced, directed and starred in, is based on the true story of Nat Turner, a slave that led the 1831 rebellion in Southampton County, Va. After a rapturous reception at Sundance, Fox Searchlight bought the film in a record $17.5 million deal.

The Birth of a Nation will be hitting an estimated 2,100 theaters in North American this weekend, which is even more than the original 1,500 that Fox Searchlight had planned. It's tracking to earn in the $7 million to $8 million range, according to early projections.

For the past two months, Parker has been at the center of controversy stemming from a 1999 rape case that involved Parker and his Birth of a Nation co-writer Jean Celestin. They were accused of raping a fellow Penn State classmate. Parker, who maintained the sex was consensual, was acquitted, while Celestin was convicted. (Celestin's case was later overturned on appeal.)

Parker has been on a promotional blitz over the past week. He was interviewed on 60 Minutes on Sunday, speaking with Anderson Cooper, and then the next morning appeared on Good Morning America. He was asked about the rape case in both interviews, telling Cooper: "I was falsely accused. I went to court, and I sat in trial. ... I was vindicated. I was proven innocent, and I feel terrible that this woman isn't here." He appeared on Steve Harvey Wednesday, saying that the controversy surrounding his film did provide a forum to discuss violence against women. "We need to talk about something that is epidemic in America that no one’s talking about. If my film or if this moment has to be something that puts our eyes and the spotlight on it, then so be it — and that is sexual violence against women by men in this country," he told Harvey. "What I’ve learned in going through all this is there are so many survivors that you would never even know."