After vying among the biggest studios in a bid for the Antoine Fuqua-directed action thriller Emancipation starring Will Smith, tech giant Apple has come out on top victorious. Beating out offers from Warner Bros, MGM, Lionsgate and Universal at the Cannes Virtual Market, Apple has landed the runaway slave film. CAA Media Finance represents the film’s domestic distribution rights at the market and Film Nation Entertainment represents international sales. CAA also arranged the financing for the film.
With the highest bid coming in at about $105 million, this makes it the largest acquisition in film festival history, according to Deadline.
Written by William N. Collage, Emancipation follows a runaway slave, Peter, who was forced to outwit and outrun bounty hunters as he made his way from the swamps of Louisiana to the North during the Civil War. His escape leads him to join the Union Army. During an Army medical examination, photos taken of Peter showing his bare back reveal scars from being almost fatally whipped. After being published in 1863, they became known as the “scourged back” photos, illustrating and exposing the cruelty of slavery.
Smith will produce the film and James Lassiter and Jon Mone will serve in a producing capacity through Westbrook Studios. McFarland Entertainment’s Joey McFarland and Escape Artists’ Todd Black will also produce. Production is anticipated to begin in early 2021. In addition to helming the film, Fuqua will act as executive producer under his Fuqua Films banner, along with executive producer Cliff Roberts.
Emancipation is just one of several recent, significant buys for Apple, including Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film Killers of the Flower Moon. The tech giant also reached a major deal with Sony for the rights to Tom Hanks’ World War II movie Greyhound, which will come out July 10, exclusively on Apple TV Plus.