Will Smith technically can’t attend the Oscars for 10 years after last year’s slap heard around the world, but that isn’t going to stop him from putting out some Oscar bait… and damn good-looking Oscar bait at that. The first trailer for the Apple TV+ production Emancipation shows that Will Smith is giving his all in the Antoine Fuqua movie about an escaped slave struggling for his freedom.
The film may say it’s based on a true story, but it’s actually based on a true photograph, which you can see recreated at the end of the Emancipation trailer. The photo, called “The Scourged Back,” was taken during a Union Army medical examination of a man only known as “Whipped Peter” and showed his scarred back as an escaped slave. It, along with a few other images of him, was published in Harper’s Weekly and helped ignite a growing fight for and support of the abolition of slavery. It spread wide and became a meme that turned public sentiment in the north against slavery as the brutality of it could no longer be conveniently denied.
The film is probably taking plenty of liberties with Peter’s story as not much is actually known about the man aside from what he told Union soldiers during his examination. Still, it looks like a powerful tale and brings Fuqua back to the more dramatic side of things as he’s been delving into action more recently. It will be interesting to see how Emancipation plays with color as the black and white at the start of the trailer seems to change to varying degrees of muted tones throughout the trailer.
Will Smith and Jon Mone produced Emancipation, which also stars Ben Foster, Charmaine Bingwa, Gilbert Owuor, Mustafa Shakir, Steven Ogg, Grant Harvey, Ronnie Gene Bivens, Jayson Warner Smith, Jabbar Lewis, Michael Luwoye, Aaron Moten, and Imani Pullum.
Apple, obviously pushing for some awards with this one, will release the movie in theaters on December 2 before dropping it on Apple TV+ on December 9.