After its awards-season release was stymied by allegations of inaccuracy and sexual abuse, “The Banker” has been cleared for release by Apple. The film starring Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, and Nicholas Hoult will be released theatrically March 6 before dropping on the Apple TV+ two weeks later.
The George Nolfi-directed movie is based on the true story of black businessmen Bernard Garrett (Mackie) and Joe Morris (Jackson), who devise a plan to take on the racist 1960s establishment by training a working-class white man, Matt Steiner (Hoult), to pose as the rich and privileged face of their burgeoning real estate and banking empire — while Garrett and Morris pose as a janitor and a chauffeur. Their success catches the attention of the federal government, which risks the empire they have built.
The real-life Garrett’s son, Bernard Garrett Jr. initially had a co-producer credit on the film and was part of its early awards campaign until his half-sister Cynthia Garrett accused Garrett Jr. of sexual abuse and helping craft an inaccurate narrative of their father’s life — one that omits her mother, Garrett’s second wife. Apple canceled the film’s premiere the day before it was set to bow at AFI Fest in November, and postponed the planned limited theatrical release shortly thereafter.
Apple released the following statement Thursday.
“We created Apple TV+ as a home for stories that matter and believe ‘The Banker,’ inspired by the brave actions of Bernard Garrett Sr. and Joe Morris, two African American businessmen who brought about positive social change, is one of those stories. We wanted to take the time to understand the situation at hand — and after reviewing the information available to us, including documentation of the filmmakers’ research, we’ve decided to make this important and enlightening film available to viewers. ‘The Banker,’ starring Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, Nia Long and Nicholas Hoult will be released theatrically on March 6, 2020 and available on Apple TV+ on March 20, 2020.
“Bernard Garrett Jr. will not profit from the release of the film in any form, and his credit as a co-producer has been removed.”
IndieWire has reached out to Cynthia Garrett for comment.
Nolfi and the movie’s cast, crew, producers, and writers signed an open letter published in December defending the film, saying the it was based not on the memories of the Garrett children, but from interviews with Garrett himself, and transcripts, court rulings, and media reports.
“Though we have no way of knowing what may have transpired between Mr. Garrett’s children in the 1970s, including the allegations of abuse we have recently been made aware of, our hearts go out to anyone who has suffered,” the letter reads.
Garrett Jr. has denied Cynthia Garrett’s allegations that he abused her and her sister as children.
Niceole R. Levy, one of the screenwriters, at the IndieWire ‘Consider This’ FYC Brunch earlier in November discussed some of the research she and her colleagues conducted for the movie, which involved transcripts from hearings after the men’s scheme was discovered.
“I did went out and dug up a whole bunch of research for us to read through,” she said. “The tone of the Congressional transcript from the hearings is very much ‘How dare you, how dare you think you can get away with this.’ I think it was very much, ‘We don’t want anyone else to think they can do this. We don’t want anyone else to get ideas about going out and buying these banks and thinking they’re going to determine what happens with our money.’”