STXfilms has acquired domestic distribution rights to Astute Films’ civil rights drama “The Best of Enemies,” starring Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell.

Babou Ceesay (“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”), Anne Heche, Wes Bentley, Bruce McGill, Tony Award-winner John Gallagher Jr., and Nick Searcy (“The Shape of Water”) lead the supporting cast.

“Empire” star Henson portrays Ann Atwater, a civil rights activist in Durham, N.C., who battled KKK leader C.P. Ellis (played by Rockwell) for a decade until 1971, when the two agreed to co-chair a two-week community meeting to deal with a court-ordered school desegregation decree. That event changed both of their lives. Ceesay portrays Bill Riddick, who reluctantly persuaded Ellis and Atwater to head the community summit to try and reach a compromise.

Robin Bissell, an exec producer on “The Hunger Games” and “Seabiscuit,” is making his directorial debut from his own script, inspired by Osha Gray Davidson’s book “The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South.” Producers include Danny Strong, Fred Bernstein, Matt Berenson, Bissell, Dominique Telson, and Material Pictures’ Tobey Maguire and Matthew Plouffe. Rick Jackson and Jeremiah Samuels are executive producers.

“Robin Bissell crafted a beautiful look at this unlikely friendship that arose from one of the most unsettling times in our country’s history, with Taraji P. Henson, Sam Rockwell, and the entire cast delivering riveting performances,” said Adam Fogelson, chairman of STXfilms. “STXfilms is proud to come on board for this important and entertaining film that will resonate and evoke dialogue about the timeless humanity that is at the heart of this powerful story.”

Rockwell won the best supporting actor Academy Award in March for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Henson was nominated for an Oscar for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

The deal was brokered by UTA Independent Film Group. Henson is represented by UTA and Ziffren Brittenham. Bissell is represented by UTA, Brillstein Entertainment Partners and Bloom Hergott Diemer. Gallagher Jr. is represented by UTA, Wetzel Entertainment Group, and Morris Yorn.

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