Will Smith ‘Emancipation’ Movie Halts Production in Georgia – New Location Announced

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 17: (L-R) jury member Will Smith attends the Jury photocall during the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 17, 2017 in Cannes, France. (Credit: Shutterstock)

New Orleans officials say Will Smith and director Antoine Fuqua’s upcoming slave movie Emancipation will now be filmed in The Big Easy, after production halted in Georgia over the state’s restrictive new voting laws.

“We can confirm right now that Will Smith, the actor and his film Emancipation are moving from Georgia to Louisiana,” New Orleans city spokesperson Beau Tidwell announced at a news conference on Tuesday, April 13.

The film has a budget of about $100 million dollars, money Tidwell noted is very welcome in his city. “That presents significant investment, significant jobs for New Orleans,” he said.

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Smith and Training Day filmmaker Fuqua issued a joint statement on Monday, explaining why they decided to halt production in Georgia.

“We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access,” the statement said.

“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,” the two added.

Fuqua is directing Emancipation and producing the film through his Fuqua Films company. Smith’s Westbrook Inc. banner is co-producing. The actor leads the cast as Whipped Peter, an enslaved man who emancipates himself from a plantation in New Orleans and later joins the Union army.

Apple Studios acquired the drama last year for a reported $130 million.

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The film was scheduled to begin shooting in June 2021. The drama is the first major production to leave Georgia as a result of the new voting laws, but as Tidwell noted “we anticipate there will be more to come.”

Critics of the Georgia laws — which were passed by the Republican-led legislature and signed by the state’s Republican governor — say they target Black populations.

The measures restrict passing out food or water while voters are waiting in line to enter polling locations. It also limits early voting, absentee ballots, restricts ballot drop boxes and imposes new voter ID requirements.