As it turns out, no video exists of the final moments of Christine Chubbuck’s life. The Florida TV news reporter infamously killed herself live on-air in 1974, but, according to Antonio Campos, director of the biopic based on her story, all copies of the tape have been destroyed — despite urban legend to the contrary.
“She asked them to record her,” the Christine helmer told Deadline’s Pete Hammond today while appearing as part of the Orchard’s presentation at the Contenders at the DGA Theatre. “The tape supposedly had gone back and forth, changed hands between the station owners, to the police, then back to the family, who supposedly burned it. It was this urban legend that someone has this tape.”
The lack of any footage of the shocking act was as it happens a benefit to Campos while making the film, which had its world premiere (and plenty of praise) at Sundance this year. Campos hadn’t heard about Chubbuck before beginning work on the film and therefore was able to learn more without being prejudiced by any specific imagery or shock value. “She was a fascinating character, but I didn’t know about her until the script,” he said. “So I’ve learned about her through the script, which was the best way to do it. I got to know her as a person, and not just this woman who did this crazy thing. The film is really about her as a person.”
The Orchard acquired the Rebecca Hall-starring film at Sundance. Christine follows the 29-year-old reporter at a Sarasota, FL, station in the early ’70s as, with ratings in the cellar, the station manager issues a mandate to deliver juicier and more exploitative stories. The mandate was firmly at odds with Chubbuck ’s serious brand of issue-based journalism and, as it turned out, coincided with her struggle with depression.
The film, written by Craig Shilowich, also stars Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, Timothy Simons, J. Smith-Cameron and Maria Dizzia. It opened in a platform release last month and ended up with the highest per-screen average of all the newcomers. Meanwhile, the Orchard is pushing Hall for Best Actress this awards season.
Meanwhile, Neruda screenwriter Guillermo Calderón, was on hand to talk about that film’s depiction of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda at a critical point in his life, when the country’s right-wing government had ordered his arrest (and, likely, proscription), forcing him into hiding for nearly two years. Calderón explained how he wanted to get to the heart of Neruda as a person, not just as an icon, mentioning how they built their story – which has been described as a political fable – from some of the lesser-known details about him. Among them, his love of mystery and detective novels — which, paradoxically, he read voraciously while on the lam.
Neruda had its world premiere at Cannes and is playing AFI fest in Los Angeles. It is Chile’s official foreign-language Oscar submission and will debut in the U.S. on December 16 via the Orchard. It’s directed by Pablo Larraín.