Will Smith's slavery film 'Emancipation' pulls production from Georgia over US state's new voting law

The producers felt compelled to move the production out of Georgia over the law that opponents say is designed to reduce the impact of minority voters

PALM SPRINGS, CA - JANUARY 03: Will Smith attends Variety's Creative Impact Awards and 10 Directors To Watch Brunch at the Parker Palm Springs on January 3, 2016 in Palm Springs, California.  (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images,)
Powered by automated translation

Will Smith and director Antoine Fuqua have pulled the production of slave drama Emancipation from Georgia, US, over the state's recently enacted law restricting voting access.

The film is the largest and most high-profile Hollywood production to pull out of the state since Georgia's Republican-controlled legislature passed a law that introduced stiffer voter identification requirements for absentee balloting, as well as limited drop boxes.

The law also gives the State Election Board new powers to intervene in county election offices, and to remove and replace local election officials. Opponents have said the law is designed to reduce the impact of minority voters.

In a joint statement, Smith and Fuqua — who are both producers on the project — said they felt compelled to move the production out of Georgia.

“We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access,” said Smith and Fuqua. “The new Georgia voting laws are reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting.”

Emancipation was scheduled to begin shooting in June. Apple Studios acquired the film in 2020 in a deal reportedly worth $130 million. Based on a true story, the film stars Smith as a slave named Peter who flees a Louisiana plantation and joins the Union Army.

Hollywood's response to the Georgia law has been closely watched as the state is a major hub for film production and boasts generous tax incentives. Some filmmakers have said they would boycott, including Ford v Ferrari director James Mangold, but major studios have so far been largely quiet.

In 2019, a Georgia anti-abortion law (later declared unconstitutional) prompted studios to threaten to cease production in the state.