Will Smith is heading back to the big screen in Emancipation.
On Wednesday, Apple Original Films released the official trailer for Emancipationwhich marks 54-year-old Smith’s first film since his incident at the 94th Academy Awards in March, during which he slapped Chris Rock during the award show’s nationally televised live broadcast.
In EmancipationSmith stars as Peter, a man whose escape from slavery forces him to rely “on his wits, unwavering faith and deep love for his family” as he runs from slave hunters and through Louisiana on his journey toward freedom.
The upcoming movie is inspired by “the 1863 photos of ‘Whipped Peter,’ taken during a Union Army medical examination, that first appeared in Harper’s Weekly,” the synopsis reads.
One image from the set of photos called “The Scourged Back” shows the man’s wounded back after a severe whipping from his enslavers — a photograph that “ultimately contributed to growing public opposition to slavery,” according to the synopsis.
The nearly three-minute-long new trailer for the Antoine Fuqua-directed movie shows Peter as he is separated from his family by enslavers before he elects to make an escape to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and attempt to meet up with the Union Army during the American Civil War.
Although Peter’s journey is perilous — the trailer teases a fight with an alligator in the swamps of Louisiana as a group of slave hunters, led by Ben Foster’s character, search for him — he appears to make it far enough to join the Union Army and fight in at least one battle during the war.
The Emancipation trailer ends with something of a full-circle moment as Peter is depicted posing for the now-famous “Scourged Back” photo, highlighting the movie’s real-life inspiration.
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On Tuesday, Fuqua, 56, said that he hoped audiences could look past Smith’s Oscars outburst and appreciate Emancipation.
He told Vanity Fair that while there was never any conversation “about the movie note coming out,” the studio and filmmakers had to assess the situation and ultimately decided it didn’t need further postponement.
“Of course I wanted people to see the film,” said the director. “My conversation was always, ‘Isn’t 400 years of slavery, of brutality, more important than one bad moment?’ We were in Hollywood, and there’s been some really ugly things that have taken place, and we’ve seen a lot of people get awards that have done some really nasty things.”
The film’s Dec. 2 release date qualifies it for the upcoming awards season, and although Smith is banned from attending Academy events for the next 10 years, he is still eligible to be nominated and win at the Academy Awards.
Aside from Smith and Foster, Emancipation also stars 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 premieres in theaters Dec. 2 and begins streaming globally on Apple TV+ Dec. 9.