After a heated bidding war that topped $130 million at one point, Apple has landed the rights to Emancipation, an action film that will star Will Smith and directed by Antoine Fuqua.
According to the Hollywood Reporter:
Based on a true story, the movie follows Peter [known in history books as “Whipped 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.
According to Deadline, this is “the largest film festival acquisition deal in film history is now closed.” After initially having seven bidders, it came down to just Apple and Warner Bros. Apple won out with a deal worth “north of $120 million,” states the report.
Fuqua explained to Deadline why he believes this is an important story to tell right now. “It 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. 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,” he said. “I had all those feelings when I read the script. As a filmmaker, everything I’ve done up to this point in my life, and not just filmmaking but living as a black man in this country, having my own issues, and then having children and a family and being married. It hit home, because this is at heart a film about family, about love.”
See the iconic and heartbreaking photo of “Whipped Peter” below: