Apple unveiled the first official trailer for its upcoming historical action thriller, Emancipation, as it also announced that it has set a release date for the project, which stars Will Smith. The high-profile film, whose distribution was temporarily put on hold after the actor infamous slapped Chris Rock at this year’s Oscar ceremony, will now open in theaters December 2. The drama will then begin streaming on Apple on December 9 in time for awards season, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The streaming service’s debut of the initial trailer and announcement of the official release dates for Emancipation come after Smith attended the first screening for the movie. The screening was hosted by Apple and the NAACP in Washington DC.
After Smith walked on stage during the Academy Awards ceremony in March and slapped Rock, who made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, Smith went on to win the best actor trophy for King Richard. But he has since been banned from attending the ceremony and prohibited from attending any Academy event during the next decade. However, Emancipation is still eligible to be nominated at the Oscar ceremony next year.
During the fallout, Netflix put another one of Smith movies, Fast and Loose, on hold. As a result, on July 29, the actor released a video in which he commented on the situation, noting: “there is no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment.”
William N. Collage wrote, and Antoine Fuqua directed, Emancipation, which Apple secured during the Cannes virtual market in 2020 after a heated bidding war. Besides Smith, the thriller 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.
Emancipation, which is based on a true story, follows Peter (Smith), a runaway slave who journeys north, outwitting cold-blooded hunters and surviving the unforgiving swamps of Louisiana along the way. After escaping to freedom, Peter joins the Union Army.
When he shows his bare back during an army medical examination, photos are taken of the scars from a near-fatal whipping delivered by an overseer on the plantation owned by John and Bridget Lyons. The Independent then publishes the photo, known as The Scourged Back, in May of 1863. It became indisputable proof of the cruelty of slavery in America.
Emancipation was initially expected to be released this year, but after the Oscars ceremony, reports surfaced that Apple was considering pushing it to next year. But Martin Scorcese and Leonardo DiCaprio’s next high profile film together, Killers of the Flower Moon, was also scheduled to be released next year by the streaming service. If Smith’s drama was removed from this December’s schedule, Apple would have been left without an awards contender for this year.
Prior to Smith’s altercation at the Oscars, Emancipation was was receiving very positive early feedback. The praise at the time suggested that the movie, and its star, would be formidable awards contenders in the next season.
Here’s the trailer of the film.