Will Smith to Star in Runaway Slave Movie ‘Emancipation’ from Director Antoine Fuqua

Paramount Pictures

A buzz-worthy project is coming together with Will Smith and filmmaker Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer).

Smith has signed up to star in and produce Emancipation, an action-thriller based on the true story of a runaway slave. We’ll be following enslaved African American Peter, as he escapes a horrifying plantation and attempts to outmanoeuvre cold-blooded hunters and their bloodhounds, and survive treacherous swamps, in order to make it north to the Union army.

The real man was Gordon, also known as “Whipped Peter” – as he became known due to history-making pictures showing the brutal scars he obtained from almost being killed during his time at a Lousiana plantation owned by John and Bridget Lyons. One particular photo, taken during a medical examination by the Army, became known as “the scourged back” after being published by The Independent and Harper’s Weekly in 1863. The image was seen across the world and is believed to have made a big impact in the abolition movement, helping shine a bigger spotlight on the horror of slavery in America. Gordon would later serve in the Civil War as a sergeant.

“Whipped Peter” | Library of Congress

The screenplay comes from from William N. Collage, and from what director Antoine Fuqua has to say about it, this story and script could very well make for an incredible film.

“When I read the script, I thought, what an amazing journey, a heartbreaking and heart-racing film to have an opportunity to make,” Fuqua said to Deadline, the outlet that broke the news.

“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 is clearly passionate about this film, which is said to be more in the vein of Mel Gibson’s survival action film Apocalypto than Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave.

“For me, it’s probably going to be one of the most important films I will make, in my life,” Fuqua said. “That’s how I really feel about it. It sticks with me, I think about it all the time.”

As of now, the plan is to have production going in early 2021, although both Smith and Fuqua have projects to wrap first. Smith was filming Venus and Serena Williams movie King Richard (where he’ll be playing their father) when the pandemic caused production to go on hold. Fuqua is currently in post-production on Mark Wahlberg-starring sci-fi film Infinite, which currently has a U.S. release date of May 28, 2021.

Apart from Smith, Emancipation‘s producing team also includes James Lassiter and Jon Mone through Westbrook Studios, along with Escape Artists’ Todd Black and McFarland Entertainment’s Joey McFarland. Fuqua will executive produce under his Fuqua Films banner, alongside Cliff Roberts.

Stay tuned for more on this one as it develops.

Antoine Fuqua directing ‘Southpaw’ | Roadshow Films

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