Directed byAntoine Fuqua
Written byWilliam N. Collage
Produced by
CinematographyRobert Richardson
Music byMarcelo Zarvos
Distributed byApple TV+
Release date
  • 2023 (2023)
CountryUnited States

Emancipation is an upcoming action thriller film directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by William N. Collage. The film stars Will Smith and Ben Foster.

Emancipation is scheduled to be released in 2023, by Apple TV+.


After being whipped nearly to death, a slave named Peter escapes from a Louisiana plantation, outwitting cold-blooded hunters, as he makes his way North, where he joins the Union Army. The film is based on the true story of Gordon. Photographs of his bare back, heavily scourged from an overseer's whippings, were published worldwide in 1863, giving the abolitionist movement proof of the cruelty of American slavery.[1]



On June 15, 2020, it was reported that Antoine Fuqua would direct Will Smith in Emancipation, based on a spec script written by William N. Collage.[2] Producer Joey McFarland, who had started researching and developing the film in 2018, recruited Collage to write the script.[3] On making the film, Fuqua said:

"It's almost two years now from when I first read the script. 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 ... That's important to see, and the most hopeful thing that I'm seeing, that they're not going to stand for it anymore."[2]

Warner Bros, MGM, Lionsgate, and Universal Pictures bid on the film before Apple ultimately won distribution rights for over $130 million.[1][4][5] In August 2021, Ben Foster, Charmaine Bingwa, Gilbert Owuor, and Mustafa Shakir joined the cast.[6] Smith earned $35 million for his part in the film.[7]

Principal photography was expected to begin on May 3, 2021, in Los Angeles.[8] It was later set to begin on June 21, 2021, in Georgia,[9] but on April 12, it was announced that the film would be shot elsewhere due to the recently-enacted Election Integrity Act of 2021. Smith and Fuqua said in a joint statement: "We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access."[9][10] The location move was reported to have cost approximately $15 million.[9] Filming was announced to take place in New Orleans from July 12 to August 21, 2021.[11] On August 2, filming paused for five days as a result of several positive COVID-19 tests.[12] Additional casting for the film was announced in November and December.[13][14]

In May 2022, the film's release was delayed to a possible 2023 date, with the given reasons being numerous production delays, the controversy over Smith slapping Chris Rock at the 94th Academy Awards, and an overcrowded film release schedule from Apple.[15]


  1. ^ a b Fleming, Mike Jr. (June 24, 2020). "Huge Virtual Cannes Battle: Bids North Of $75 Million On Antoine Fuqua-Will Smith Runaway Slave Tale 'Emancipation'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 14, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Fleming, Mike Jr. (June 15, 2020). "Antoine Fuqua & Will Smith Runaway Slave Thriller 'Emancipation' To Be Introduced At Virtual Cannes Market; Based On Indelible 'Scourged Back' Photo". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 14, 2021.
  3. ^ McNary, Dave (June 24, 2020). "Studios Bidding Big for Will Smith-Antoine Fuqua's 'Emancipation'". Variety. Retrieved August 19, 2021.
  4. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (June 26, 2020). "Apple & Warner Bros Down To Wire On 'Emancipation' At Virtual Cannes; Bids In Record Setting $130 Million Gross Range". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 14, 2021.
  5. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (July 1, 2020). "Apple Wins 'Emancipation'; Will Smith's Westbrook Relationship With Toppers Zack Van Amburg & Jamie Erlicht At Sony Helped Seal Festival Record Pre-Buy". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 14, 2021.
  6. ^ Grobar, Matt (August 3, 2021). "Ben Foster, Charmaine Bingwa, Gilbert Owuor & Mustafa Shakir Join Antoine Fuqua's 'Emancipation'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  7. ^ Lang, Brent (July 20, 2022). "Inside Movie Stars' Salaries: Joaquin Phoenix Nabs $20M for Joker 2, Tom Cruise Heads to Over $100M and More". Variety. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  8. ^ "Emancipation - Production Listing". Productionlist.com. March 15, 2021. Archived from the original on May 14, 2021. Retrieved May 14, 2021.
  9. ^ a b c Fleming, Mike Jr (April 12, 2021). "Will Smith & Antoine Fuqua Confirm Georgia Exit Of 'Emancipation': "We Cannot In Good Conscience Provide Economic Support" After Recent Election Law – Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 12, 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ Wicker, Jewel (April 12, 2021). "Will Smith and Antoine Fuqua film pulled from Georgia over voting bill". The Guardian. Retrieved August 18, 2021.
  11. ^ "Film and TV Projects Going Into Production - Emancipation". Variety Insight. Archived from the original on May 14, 2021. Retrieved May 14, 2021.
  12. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (August 1, 2021). "'Emancipation' Will Smith-Antoine Fuqua Apple Movie Pauses Production After Positive Covid Tests". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  13. ^ Grobar, Matt (November 11, 2021). "Antoine Fuqua's 'Emancipation' Adds Steven Ogg, Grant Harvey, Ronnie Gene Blevins & More". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 11, 2021.
  14. ^ Grobar, Matt (December 2, 2021). "Antoine Fuqua's Apple Thriller 'Emancipation' Adds Newcomer Imani Pullum". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 23, 2022.
  15. ^ Anderson, Jenna (May 6, 2022). "Apple Delays New Will Smith Movie Due to Chris Rock Slapping Controversy". Comic Book Resources.