Why Will Smith will no longer shoot the ‘Whipped Peter’ movie in Georgia

Francis Akhalbey April 13, 2021
The "Emancipation" movie will no longer be shot in Georgia -- Left photo via @willsmith on Instagram

In a joint statement to Deadline on Monday, veteran actor Will Smith and director Antoine Fuqua announced they are pulling production for their upcoming Emancipation movie out of Georgia in response to the state’s controversial election law that was recently passed.

The law, which was signed by Governor Brian Kemp on March 25, has been severely condemned by activists, Democrats as well a host of other prominent companies who say it’s regressive and designed to suppress votes within Black and other minority communities in the state.

“At this moment in time, the Nation is coming to terms with its history and is attempting to eliminate vestiges of institutional racism to achieve true racial justice,” the statement by Smith, 52, and Fuqua, 55, read.

“We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access. The new Georgia voting laws are reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting. Regrettably, we feel compelled to move our film production work from Georgia to another state.”

Named the Election Integrity Act of 2021, the voting law was passed after both houses of the state legislature, which Republicans control, voted in favor. The days leading up to the legislative decision saw a nationwide interest in what the bill proposed.

A few of the things the law seeks to do have left many concerned. For instance, the Act requires Georgians to get new ID requirements to request mail-in ballots. Formerly, Georgians only had to sign their names. Apart from that, Georgian legislators have now been given the power to take control of election operations if any problems at all are reported during an electioneering process. People waiting in line at a polling center now will not receive food and drinks from any Samaritan since the practice is now illegal. The law will also allow only a short period of time for early voting.

The recent announcement by the Emancipation production team comes as Major League Baseball is also deciding to pull the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta to another city in response to the state’s controversial election law. Emancipation is the first movie project to move production out of the state in response to the law in question, according to The Hollywood Reporter. It is rumored the movie, which would chronicle the daring escape of runaway slave “Whipped Peter”, could now be shot in Louisiana – the location where it actually happened.

The movie’s creators will, however, have to dig deeper into their pockets and add around $15 million to production as the relocation means they’ll no longer benefit from Georgia’s attractive tax rebates that have largely incentivized movie makers to move production to the state, Deadline reported.

About Emancipation

In June last year, Face2Face Africa reported Will Smith was set to portray runaway slave, Gordon, in the upcoming action-thriller movie. Gordon, who was nicknamed “Whipped Peter”, was photographed at a union camp upon escaping slavery in the south. Gordon’s photograph displaying his very conspicuous scourged back stunned Americans in the north.

Directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by William Collage, the true-life story will focus on Gordon’s daring escape from his slave masters and his subsequent enlistment in the Union Army during the Civil War, all in a bid to reunite with his family.

Why Will Smith will no longer shoot the ‘Whipped Peter’ movie in Georgia
Three illustrations showing Peter after his escape, the welts from being whipped upon his back, and in uniform after he had joined the Union Army, featured in McPherson and Oliver in July, 1863 via Library of Congress

Speaking with Deadline, Fuqua said the movie is based on “historical documents” and “information from Peter’s own diaries that he kept.”

“It’s based on historical fact,” he said. “When I read the script, I thought, what an amazing journey, a heartbreaking and heart-racing film to have an opportunity to make. 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.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: April 13, 2021


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