Will Smith’s first role post-Oscars slap and Best Actor win lands just in time for awards season.
Smith collaborates with “Training Day” director Antoine Fuqua for the Apple Original film “Emancipation,” based on the true story of former slave “Whipped Peter.” Smith stars as Peter and produces the film through his Westbrook Studios company.
“Emancipation” tells the triumphant story of Peter (Smith), a man who escapes from slavery, relying on his wits, unwavering faith and deep love for his family to evade cold-blooded hunters and the unforgiving swamps of Louisiana on his quest for freedom. The film is inspired by the 1863 photos of “Whipped Peter” taken during a Union Army medical examination that first appeared in Harper’s Weekly. One image, known as “The Scourged Back,” showing Peter’s bare back mutilated by a whipping, ultimately contributed to growing public opposition to slavery.
Ben Foster, Charmaine Bingwa, Mustafa Shakir, and Timothy Hutton also star. William N. Collage penned the script.
Director Fuqua executive produces the film, along with Chris Brigham, James Lassiter, Heather Washington, Cliff Roberts, Glen Basner, and Scott Greenberg. Jon Mone on behalf of Smith’s Westbrook Studios, Joey McFarland on behalf of McFarland Entertainment, and Todd Black on behalf of Escape Artists serve as producers.
While “Emancipation” is already getting awards season buzz, director Fuqua told Vanity Fair that the film should not be viewed in terms of Smith’s outburst against Oscar presenter Chris Rock earlier this year.
“The film to me is bigger than that moment,” Fuqua said. “Four hundred years of slavery is bigger than one moment.”
He added, “My hope is that people will see it that way and watch the movie and be swept away with the great performance by Will and all the real hard work that the whole crew did.”
Fuqua director noted that “as a filmmaker, I wasn’t out looking for a slave movie; I never saw ‘Emancipation’ as a slave movie.” Instead, the film is rooted in “sacred motivation” and the pursuit of freedom in both physical and spiritual senses. “It was a story about triumph,” the “Equalizer” director continued.
“Emancipation” will premiere in theaters on December 2 and globally on Apple TV+ December 9.
Check out the trailer below.