Plenty of films come to the Toronto Film Festival hoping to kick up enough buzz to secure a distribution deal, but likely the most high-profile film at this year’s festival still looking to catch someone’s eye is Robert Redford’s period drama The Conspirator. The film, about the trial of a woman accused of helping to plan Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and starring Robin Wright and James McAvoy, had its premiere last night and has already garnered healthy interest. A source close to the film confirmed to EW that they have received two separate offers so far, even though they don’t expect a deal to be close today.
Despite the big names both in front of and behind the camera, The Conspirator is hardly a big studio offering. “The budget was comparatively small,” Redford told EW. “It was a first-time outing for the financing company, and the budget was tied to the schedule, which was quick and fast. It’s basically like an independent film.” But the pedigree, along with praise for Wright and McAvoy’s performances as the accused Mary Surratt and her lawyer, will certainly help the movie’s chances of leaving Toronto in somebody’s possession.
This is Redford’s first film since 2007’s Lions for Lambs, even though he was working in the interim on other projects on subjects like Jackie Robinson and The Weather Underground. The majority of the film takes place in the aftermath of the president’s murder, as the government fights for a swift conviction of the potentially innocent Surratt in order to assuage the nation’s post-Civil War tensions. “When I first read the script, I was taken aback by the fact that the Lincoln assassination was only a catalyst for this whole other story,” says Redford. “And it’s a story that no one has really told before.”