Apple takes Will Smith’s Emancipation in record acquisition
According to Deadline, the Cannes virtual market has just played host to the largest film festival acquisition deal in film history. The runaway slave action-thriller Emancipation, to be directed by Antoine Fuqua (The Magnificent Seven, Infinite) and star Will Smith (Suicide Squad, Bad Boys for Life), has reportedly nabbed between $105 million and $120 million (depending on gross buyouts) from Apple after an intense bidding war with Warner Bros.
Screenwriter Willam N. Collage will also get mid-seven figures for his script, with Emancipation slated to premiere in theaters before streaming around the world on Apple TV+. Production is expected to begin in early 2021.
The film will be based on Peter, a runaway slave forced to outwit cold-blooded hunters and the unforgiving swamps of Louisiana on a tortuous journey North to join the Union Army. After showing his bare back during an Army medical examination, photos were taken of the scars from an overseer’s whipping that nearly killed him. When the photo, which became known as “The Scourged Back,” was published by the Independent and Harper’s Weekly in 1863, it proved as the biggest proof of the cruelty of slavery in America.
Penned by William N. Collage, the project will use the true story as a historical background while still serving as an action thriller that focuses on Peter’s death-defying journey to escape his captors, including using onions to mask his scent from bloodhounds and running barefoot through the swamps for 10 days.
Joey McFarland began researching and developing the story and characters in 2018. He engaged Collage to pen the script and then brought it to Fuqua and Smith.
Will Smith will produce and James Lassiter and Jon Mone will serve in a producing capacity through Westbrook. Joey McFarland will produce through McFarland Entertainment along with Todd Black at Escape Artists. Antoine Fuqua and Cliff Roberts are Executive Producers.
With Fuqua wrapping post-production on the sci-fi actioner Infinite led by Mark Wahlberg (Instant Family) and Smith waiting to resume production on King Richard, the duo intend on beginning production on the film in early 2021.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)