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Will Smith movie ‘Emancipation’ abandons Georgia over voting restrictions

Written by on April 12, 2021

Image: Will Smith attends a premiere in Westwood, California, on Dec. 13, 2017.
Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

(NBCNews) Antoine Fuqua and Will Smith will move production on their big-budget, runaway slave thriller “Emancipation” out of Georgia in protest over the state’s controversial new voting restrictions.

The announcement continues the economic fallout from Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, and the GOP-controlled state legislature’s decision to pass new regulations that critics maintain amount to voter suppression, aimed at reducing the turnout of people of color. The new laws were passed in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, and after Georgia voted for a Democrat for president for the first time in decades.

The rules shorten the duration of absentee voting, require absentee voters to produce identification, limit the use of drop boxes and make it a crime to hand out free food or water to voters standing in line.

“Emancipation,” which was scheduled to begin filming on June 21, stars Smith as Peter, a fugitive from slavery who is fleeing Louisiana in the hopes of traveling north to freedom. Fuqua will direct from a script by William N. Collage.

Fuqua Films and Smith’s media company Westbrook Inc. are backing the film, which sold to Apple Studios in a deal reportedly valued at $120 million. It is unclear where production will move and whether or not Smith and Fuqua’s decision will pressure other Hollywood players to cease filming in Georgia. The Peach State has become a major production hub in recent years, with the likes of Tyler Perry and Marvel setting up major film and television shoots in Georgia because of its generous incentives.

Some media companies such as ViacomCBS and AT&T have criticized the restrictions, while others have remained silent. Top talent has been more outspoken. Filmmakers like James Mangold and actors such as Mark Hamill have vowed to boycott film and television production in Georgia while the new voting law is in place.