Will Smith pulls filming from Georgia over new voting law

Will Smith and Antoine Fuqua
Will Smith and Antoine Fuqua(WRDW)
Published: Apr. 12, 2021 at 12:34 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

On the heels of a meeting by corporate executives over Georgia’s new voting law, actor Will Smith and director Antoine Fuqua have pulled production of their runaway slave drama “Emancipation” from the Peach State over the legislation.

The film is the largest and most high profile Hollywood production to depart the state since Georgia’s Republican-controlled state Legislature passed a law that introduced stiffer voter identification requirements for absentee balloting, limited drop boxes and gave the State Election Board new powers to intervene in county election offices and to remove and replace local election officials.

Opponents have said the law is designed to reduce the impact of minority voters.

In a joint statement, Smith and Fuqua — who are both producers on the project — said they felt compelled to move the production out of Georgia.

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

“Emancipation” had been scheduled to begin shooting in June. Apple Studios acquired the film last year in a deal reportedly worth $130 million. Based on a true story, the film stars Smith as a slave who flees a Louisiana plantation and joins the Union Army.

Hollywood’s response to the Georgia law has been closely watched because the state is a major hub of film production and boasts generous tax incentives. Some filmmakers have said they would boycott, including “Ford v. Ferrari” director James Mangold. But major studios have so far been largely quiet. In 2019, a Georgia anti-abortion law (later declared unconstitutional) prompted studios to threaten to cease production in the state.

Weekend meeting

Over the weekend, more than 100 of the nation’s top corporate leaders met virtually to discuss ways for companies to continue responding to the law and similar ones across the U.S.

Some participated in the Zoom call from Augusta, where they were attending the Masters Tournament.

Georgia’s law has drawn opposition from Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola and other companies based in the Peach State, although some activists have criticized them for not doing enough to keep the measure from being passed in the first place.

CBS News reported that participants on the call included Arthur Blank, owner of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons; James Murdoch and his wife, Kathryn Hufschmid; Adam Aron, CEO of AMC Theatres; Brad Karp, chairman of the law firm, Paul, Weiss; Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments; Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart; Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines; Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines; Chip Bergh, chairman of Levi Strauss Co.; and Reid Hoffman, CEO of LinkedIn. Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, and Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Airlines, were invited but unable to attend.

The Associated Press and CBS News contributed to this report