Many Americans are unaware of the story of Newton Knight, but that will likely change after the release of “The Free State of Jones” next year.
Directed by Gary Ross, “Free State” chronicles the life of Knight, a Confederate soldier who led a band of deserters (known as Knight Company) against the Confederacy at the height of the Civil War. The group reportedly attempted to form the “free state of Jones” near Jones County, Mississippi. Matthew McConaughey stars as Knight, a man who married a former slave (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and helped form a mixed race community in the era of Reconstruction.
The film also stars Kerri Russell (“The Americans,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”) and Mahershala Ali (“House of Cards,” “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay”).
Based on the talent involved and the subject matter “Free State” would seem like prime Oscar bait. At the moment, however, distributor and financier STX Entertainment has slotted it for a March 11, 2016 release date outside of the awards season window. The film recently began production and STX just released the first image of McConaughey as Knight which you can view at the top of this post.
STX also has an “Untitled Joel Edgerton Thriller” set for July 31 and the English language remake of Oscar winning Foreign Language Film “The Secret in Their Eyes” set for Oct. 23. If “Free State” finishes in time and turns into something special would STX consider moving it into awards season? McConaughey also has Gus Van Sant's “The Sea of Trees” to potentially campaign for, but never say never.