If the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was worried about a threepeat of #OscarsSoWhite, it can probably breathe a lot easier after seeing this just-released first trailer of Paramount’s FencesThe movie version of August Wilson’s Pulitzer- and Tony-winning play is directed by and stars Denzel Washington as Troy, a once-promising baseball player who now drives a trash truck and must deal with raising his family. The 1950s-set film touches on many things but remains a profoundly human story. Paramount’s Christmas Day wide release date will keep Fences front and center just as the Academy mails out ballots.

Washington won a Best Actor Tony for his performance opposite Viola Davis, who also won a Tony and joins Washington as his wife Rose in the film which Wilson adapted for the screen. The play originally opened on Broadway in 1987 and starred James Earl Jones and Mary Alice, with a very young Courtney B. Vance — this year’s Emmy winner for playing Johnnie Cochran in The People Vs. O.J. Simpson — in a pivotal role as their son Cory. Jones and Alice won acting Tonys, just as Washington and Davis did in the 2010 production which received 10 nominations and also won Best Revival of a Play. With this kind of stage pedigree and stars, this would seem to be catnip for the Academy race.

Playing the role of Cory in the film is British-born Jovan Adepo, perhaps best known for his role as Michael Murphy in the HBO series The Leftovers. Mykelti Williamson also has a key role as Troy’s brother Gabriel. Washington, Todd Black and Scott Rudin produce. This is Washington’s third feature film as director following 2002’s Antwone Fisher and 2007’s The Great Debaters. 

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Tony Awards

For Paramount, which has been undergoing recent studio shakeups including the departure last week of Vice Chairman Rob MooreFences joins perhaps the studio’s most impressive awards-season lineup in years with Florence Foster Jenkins,  Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, Robert Zemeckis’ Allied, and the just announced December 23 Oscar-qualifying run of Martin Scorsese’s much-awaited Silence. With Meryl Streep as Florence Foster Jenkins, Amy Adams critically lauded already for Venice/Telluride/Toronto player Arrival, Oscar winner Marion Cotillard opposite Brad Pitt in Allied , and now Davis in Fences, the studio has almost enough prospects to fill the Best Actress race on its own. 

Check out the Fences trailer above.