Apple, Will Smith Film Project ‘Emancipation’ Exits Georgia Over Voting Law

Will Smith and director Antoine Fuqua will no longer shoot the movie “Emancipation” in Georgia, citing a controversial new voting law.

The Apple Inc. production, in which Smith stars as a real-life fugitive from slavery who became famous for a photograph of his whip-scarred back, was set to start filming in Georgia on June 21, according to a joint statement Monday. The director and actor called the voting law “regressive” and said it’s “designed to restrict voter access.”

“Emancipation” is the first major project to publicly break from the state, a popular filming destination because of its tax incentives and studio space. The move may inspire others to take a similar course of action. Hollywood studios have a history of taking political stances, and have threatened to withhold business from Georgia before, most recently over a 2019 bill that took aim at abortion rights.

Apple, Will Smith Film Project ‘Emancipation’ Exits Georgia Over Voting Law

“The new Georgia voting laws are reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting,” Fuqua’s Fuqua Films and Smith’s Westbrook Inc. said in the statement. “Regrettably, we feel compelled to move our film production work from Georgia to another state.”

Georgia’s new voting law requires voters to provide a state-issued identification card when requesting an absentee ballot and limits drop boxes, among other restrictions. Voting-rights activists have said it threatens to particularly disenfranchise Black voters, and it has drawn criticism from major corporations based in the state, including Coca-Cola Co. and Delta Air Lines Inc.

Apple, Will Smith Film Project ‘Emancipation’ Exits Georgia Over Voting Law

So far, Hollywood studios have mostly avoided making drastic changes to their filming plans in the state. Nearly all major film and television producers, including Netflix Inc. and Walt Disney Co., are producing new content in Georgia.

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