Will Smith to Star in Slavery Action Movie ‘Emancipation’ with ‘Training Day’ Director

Will Smith
CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 23: Will Smith attends the 70th Anniversary during the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival on May 23, 2017 in Cannes, France. (Andrea Raffin / Shutterstock.com)

Emancipation‘, an action slavery movie’ is coming soon starring Will Smith and directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day)

As the Black Lives Matter movement spreads around the world following the killing of George Floyd, Will Smith is tapped to star in an upcoming slavery thriller from the director of ‘Training Day’, Antoine Fuqua.

According to reports, Will Smith has signed on to play a runaway slave in Antoine Fuqua’s action thriller ‘Emancipation’, which is scripted to being more like ‘The Revenant’ than ’12 Years a Slave’.

The movie was written by Bill Collage, which is based on the true story of Peter a runaway slave. Peter was a slave on a Louisiana plantation owned by John and Bridget Lyons, and he received a brutal whipping by one of the plantation’s overseers, which nearly kills him. Peter decides to run away to the North, where he joins the Union Army. When Peter showed Army doctors his back during a routine medical examination, the doctors took photos of his scars, and today his photo is known as “the scourged back”. The photo was published by The Independent in 1863.

The photo went viral and was shown as proof of American cruelty towards Blacks and slaves. It became a state and moved many free Blacks to join the Union Army to fight the Confederate South.

Will Smith will produce the movie under his Westbrook Studios banner. Fuqua will also executive producer under Fuqua Films.

Fuqua reportedly read the script several years ago and was working on the movie for a while with Will Smith for a long time now. ‘Emancipation’ is expected to be different than traditional slavery dramas and will feature more action. Peter uses onions to mask his scent from hunters and bloodhounds, while he makes his way through the dangerous swamps of Louisiana.

Fuqua spoke with told Deadline that the script “hit my heart and my soul in so many ways that are impossible to convey but I think you understand. We’re watching some of the feeling that I had, in the streets right now,” said Fuqua, noting the timeliness of the script. “There’s sadness, there’s anger, there’s love, faith and hope as well because of what I see young people doing today. They’re doing all the heavy lifting now. Black, white, brown, yellow, you name it. They’re out in the street, they’re young, and they’re standing up for their future. That’s important to see, and the most hopeful thing that I’m seeing, that they’re not going to stand for it anymore. I had all those feelings with I read the script,” said the director.

Meanwhile, Fuqua explains the movie’s writer received inspiration from historical documents and Peter’s personal diary. “When I read the script, I thought, what an amazing journey — a heartbreaking and heart-racing film to have an opportunity to make. It’s rare to have a film that, on the entertainment side, has action that I’ve never seen before, real action, a guy running through the swamps for his life, wrestling with alligators and snakes, being chased by hounds, then joining the Civil War, fighting against the Confederate army. Not for revenge — it’s not a revenge film — but just to get home to his family, and he was fighting for freedom. Just on that basis alone, I thought the film should be made on an epic scale.”

Fuqua added his reasoning behind casting Will Smith for the movie.

“I haven’t seen this film, this character, before. Will Smith is perfect for it. He has all the qualities to do it. He’s at a place in his life where, we know Will’s charming and a talented actor, and that he’s physical, and we’ve seen him go really deep in other films. When I sat down with Will, we both talked about taking our skill sets to another level for this one, and giving ourselves completely to it in an honest and fair, true way,” said Fuqua. “He’s focused, and is a serious actor and producer. Will cares about every aspect of it, from storyboards to the characters and the technique. Will’s a solid producer, which helps. And having an actor who gives his heart to a project like this…there’s a small group of guys like that. Denzel [Washington]Tom CruiseLeonardo DiCaprio, and Will, guys that dive in with you all the way. As a director, you cannot ask for more than to have guys like that with you.”

Fuqua added why he wanted to make this movie.

“For me, it’s probably going to be one of the most important films I will make, in my life. That’s how I really feel about it. It sticks with me, I think about it all the time. I’ve been quietly watching the news to see what is going on in the world. I watch, before I speak on a lot of these things. The best weapon I have, and those in our business have, is our art form. We get a chance to entertain, enlighten and educate through our art form. This one says it all. It should be timeless, a film that is more appropriate today than ever before, and necessary,” said Fuqua.

The “scourged back” photo “was the first viral image of the brutality of slavery that the world saw. 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,” said Fuqua, who said he plans to shoot Emancipation “as soon as possible,” adding that it all “depends on Will’s schedule.”

Will Smith was in the middle of filming Warner Bros’ sports drama ‘King Richard’, when the movie’s production shut down due to the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. He will start filming ‘King Richard’ as soon as possible. Meanwhile, Fuqua will continue working on ‘Infinite’, which stars Mark Wahlberg. ‘Emancipation’ is expected to start filming early next year.

In relevant news, in an open letter to Hollywood, Black writers are calling for Hollywood to become more accountable and support aspiring and working writers

Following the killing of George Floyd by police officers, there is a new Black renaissance we have not seen since the Civil Rights Movement of the late 60s and 70s. Now, after many Hollywood studios announced their support for Black Lives Matter, writers are calling for better accountability and the end of systemic racism in the film industry.

According to a report by the Los Angeles TimesBlack writers are looking for Hollywood to redo their hiring practices to allow for more progress among writers and content creators of color in the industry.

On Friday, the Writers Guild of America West published an open letter from the Committee of Black Writers (CBW). The “Letter to Hollywood” is calling for a major change in the way the TV and film industry hires writers and to partner with schools to prepare Black creators to join the business. It also calls for accountability.

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