Apple Lands Will Smith, Antoine Fuqua Cannes Package 'Emancipation'

Many of the major studios were vying for the action film with Warner Bros. and the tech giant the final two bidders.

After a heated bidding war, Apple has landed Emancipation, the action film that will star Will Smith and is set to be directed by Antoine Fuqua.

Many of the major studios were vying for the package, repped by CAA Media Finance, being sold out of the Cannes Virtual Market. Warner Bros. and Apple were the final two bidders, with Apple taking the project for a massive price tag.

Based on a true story, the movie follows Peter, a runaway slave forced to outwit cold-blooded hunters and the unforgiving swamps of Louisiana on his journey North. Once there, he joined the Union Army. When Peter showed his bare back during an Army medical examination, photos were taken of the scars from a near-fatal whipping delivered by an overseer on the plantation owned by John and Bridget Lyons.

The photo, known as The Scourged Back, was published by the Independent in May of 1863 and then in Harper’s Weekly‘s July 4 issue and became indisputable proof of the cruelty and barbarity of slavery in America. It solidified the cause of abolitionists and prompted many free Blacks to join the Union Army.

William N. Collage wrote the feature, which was researched and developed by Joey McFarland. Smith will produce, with James Lassiter and Jon Mone serving in some producing capacity through Westbrook Studios. McFarland Entertainment’s Joey McFarland and Escape Artists’ Todd Black will also produce. Fuqua will executive produce under his Fuqua Films banner alongside Cliff Roberts.

The acquisition comes as the tech giant has made several large buys, including Martin Scorsese's upcoming directorial effort Killers of the Flower Moon and Tom Hanks' World War II movie Greyhound from Sony, out July 10. Apple's upcoming slate includes A24 partnerships, Sofia Coppola's On the Rocks and Sundance doc Boys State.