Warner Bros, Apple, MGM, Lionsgate and Universal have all made offers on the property at the Cannes virtual market this week. Deadline Hollywood reported that the bidding is upwards of $75 million.
CAA Media Finance, which arranged the financing for the film, represents U.S. rights at the market. Film Nation Entertainment represents international sales.
“Emancipation” is written by William N. Collage and centered on a runaway slave named Peter, who escaped to the Union Army during the Civil War and outwitted bounty hunters over 10 days through the Louisiana swamps, masking his scent with onions. Army photos taken of Peter showing the scars on his back from being whipped were published in 1863 and became known as the “scourged back” photos, which became a means to illustrate the cruelty of slavery.
Production is expected to launch in early 2021. Smith, James Lassiter and Jon Mone will produce “Emancipation” through Westbrook Studios, along with McFarland Entertainment’s Joey McFarland and Escape Artists’ Todd Black. Fuqua will executive produce under his Fuqua Films banner, alongside Cliff Roberts. McFarland began researching and developing the story and characters in 2018 and brought in Collage to pen the script and participate in additional research.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced Warner Bros. to halt production of “King Richard,” the story of Richard Williams, father and coach of tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, which Smith is starring in. Some of the major tennis scenes still have to shoot.