Apple TV+ wins bidding war for Will Smith film project Emancipation

The thriller is based on a true story and follows Peter, an escaped slave who attempts to join the Union Army.

Will Smith (Getty)

Apple TV+ has won a seven-way bidding war for Will Smith’s latest film project, Emancipation, about a runaway slave who is attempting to join the Union Army during the American Civil War.


Antoine Fuqua is directing the Willam N. Collage-scripted project, which is described as a thriller and will star Smith.

Apple won the rights at the Cannes Virtual Market in a fierce bid against the likes of Warner Bros, in a deal reportedly worth over $100 million.

The film is inspired by the photograph ‘The Scourged Back’, when an escaped slave showed his back during an Union Army medical examination. The image was circulated and published in newspapers around the world in 1863, providing proof of the cruelty of slavery and prompting many free black men to enlist.

In the film, plantation slave Peter has a treacherous journey ahead of him, as he travels bare-foot through Louisiana swamps, masking his scent with onions as he evades capture and cruelty in his attempt to make it to the North.

Writer Fuqua believes that the film will resonate with many in the wake of recent Black Lives Matter protests around the world.

“It was the first viral image of the brutality of slavery that the world saw,” Fuqua previously told Deadline. “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.”