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Will Smith Slavery Drama ‘Emancipation’ Exits Georgia Over Voting Law, Costing Around $15 Million

The slavery drama is the first major production to pull out of Georgia.

Actor Will Smith poses for photographers upon arrival at the 'Aladdin' European Gala premiere in London, Thursday, May 9, 2019. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)

Will Smith

Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP

The Will Smith and Antoine Fuqua slavery drama “Emancipation” is leaving Georgia ahead of its summer production start date due to the state’s controversial new voting restrictions. The film will likely now shoot in Louisiana, costing the production “somewhere in the $15 million range” because of the loss of Georgia tax rebates (via Deadline). Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill March 25 banning the distribution of food and water on voting lines, limiting the number of ballot drop boxes, and other restrictive voting measures. The bill has led to widespread backlash, including calls from the likes of James Mangold and Mark Hamill to boycott film production in the state.

“At this moment in time, the Nation is coming to terms with its history and is attempting to eliminate vestiges of institutional racism to achieve true racial justice,” Fuqua and Smith said in a joint statement. “We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access.”

The statement continues, “The new Georgia voting laws are reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting. Regrettably, we feel compelled to move our film production work from Georgia to another state.”

“Emancipation” was scheduled to begin filming in Georgia on June 21, 2021. The film caused a frenzy last year when it was reported that Apple bought the rights to the project in a deal worth a reported $120 million. Smith is starring in the project as Peter, a slave who flees a Louisiana plantation after being nearly whipped to death. The film tracks Peter’s journey North, where he eventually joins the Union Army. The film is based on the true story behind a photograph of a slave published in May 1863.

“It was the first viral image of the brutality of slavery that the world saw,” Fuqua told Deadline last year. “Which is interesting, when you put it into perspective with today and social media and what the world is seeing, again. You can’t fix the past, but you can remind people of the past and I think we have to, in an accurate, real way. We all have to look for a brighter future for us all, for everyone. That’s one of the most important reasons to do things right now, is show our history. We have to face our truth before we can move forward.”

“Emancipation” is the first major Hollywood film production to exit Georgia following the voting law. Earlier this month, Major League Baseball announced it was moving the All-Star Game out of Atlanta, Georgia because of the law.

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