AceShowbiz - Will Smith is set to team with director Antoine Fuqua for a historical drama inspired by the horrifying image of a tortured slave's back.
"Emancipation" will feature Smith as a runaway slave named Peter, who evaded hunters and the dangerous swamps of Louisiana to reach freedom in the 1860s.
Written by Willam N. Collage, the story is based on photos taken of Peter's back during a medical examination, which revealed shocking scars from injuries caused by his brutal owners. Known as "the scourged back," the shot first appeared in The Independent in May, 1863 and went on to serve as a symbol of the gruesome realities of slavery.
"It was the first viral image of the brutality of slavery that the world saw, which is interesting when you put it into perspective with today and social media and what the world is seeing, again," Fuqua tells Deadline. "You can't fix the past, but you can remind people of the past and I think we have to, in an accurate, real way."
"We all have to look for a brighter future for us all, for everyone. That's one of the most important reasons to do things right now, is show our history. We have to face our truth before we can move forward."
Fuqua added that he is thrilled to be collaborating with Smith: "He's focused and is a serious actor and producer," the director said. "Will cares about every aspect of it, from storyboards to the characters and the technique. Will's a solid producer, which helps. And having an actor who gives his heart to a project like this... there's a small group of guys like that. Denzel (Washington), Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Will, guys that dive in with you all the way."