Paramount Pictures has offered up a first look at what could be one of the studio’s biggest awards contenders of the year. Fences is a feature film adaptation of the Tony Award-winning stage play by August Wilson which takes place in the 1950s and revolves around an African-American former baseball star who now works as a trash collector, crossing the race barrier to serve as a driver, not just a barrel lifter. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis starred in the 2010 revival of the play, earning Tony Awards for their performances, and they reprise their roles in the feature film adaptation, which sees Washington stepping into the director’s chair of a drama that tackles American race relations head on.
Washington has directed before with 2002’s Antwone Fisher and 2007’s The Great Debaters, so he’s not exactly a novice, and here he’s working from a screenplay by the late Wilson. Given that the performances from Washington and Davis were highly lauded on Broadway, it stands to reason that they’d deliver the goods once again on the big screen, and indeed early word has put Davis towards the very front of the Best Actress pack.
Paramount has a couple of Oscar contenders on its hands, with Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi drama Arrival and Robert Zemeckis’s WWII love story Allied starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. However, early reviews for Arrival out of Venice and Telluride seem to suggest the film’s premise might be a bit too obtuse to crack the Best Picture race (though a nomination for Amy Adams seems possible), and Zemeckis’ last film The Walk was a non-starter, so Allied is a big ol’ question mark. At this stage, Fences seems to be the surest bet for Paramount this year alongside the “old white people” demographic-pleasing Florence Foster Jenkins, and you can count on them making a major awards push for the film in the months to come.
Check out the first Fences images below, and stay tuned for a debut trailer that should be arriving sooner rather than later. The film opens in theaters on December 25th and also stars Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, and Saniyya Sidney.