Will Smith new film: Emancipation release date UK, movie trailer, cast, plot - is it based on a true story?

Will Smith will star in Emancipation, a film about escaped slave ‘Whipped Peter’ and Smith’s first major screen role since the Oscars slap incident in March

Emancipation is an upcoming AppleTV+ historical film starring Will Smith in his first major screen role since the 2022 Oscars, in which he won the Best Actor award for his role in biopic King Richard but overshadowed the event by slapping host Chris Rock.

The film will follow an escaped slave on his journey from a Louisianna plantation to a Union Army camp at the height of the American Civil War. It is based on the incredible true story of a real slave who experienced the horrific brutality of the plantation slavery system in the United States.

Will Smith and Ben Foster in Emancipation

What does Emancipation mean?

Emancipation means to free someone, or a group of people from slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation of New Year’s Day 1863, freed all slaves held in rebel states - however, it did not free slaves in loyal border states which also had slavery.

The last slaves in America were not freed until 19 June, when Union troops reached Galveston, Texas. Many slaves throughout American history, freed themselves, by paying for their freedom or, like Whipped Peter, by escaping plantations - this was known as self-emancipation.

Who is in the cast of Emancipation?

The cast of Emancipation includes:

  • Will Smith as Peter
  • Ben Foster as Fassel
  • Grant Harvey as Leeds
  • David Denman as General William Dwight
  • Steven Ogg as Sergeant Howard
  • Charmaine Bingwa as Dodienne
  • Imani Pullum as Betsy
  • Paul Ben-Victor as Major Halstead
  • Mustafa Shakir as Cailloux
  • Dave Davis as J. Oliver
  • Ronnie Gene Blevins as Harrington
  • Aaron Moten as Knowls
  • Jayson Warner Smith as Capt. John Lyons
  • Walker Babington as William McPherson
  • Michael Luwoye as John
  • Mark Ashworth as R L Fabian
Whipped Peter joined the Union Army after his escape from slavery

Is Emancipation based on a true story?

Emancipation is based on the real-life of ‘Whipped-Peter’, a slave who became known for a photograph showing extensive scarring covering his back from where he had been whipped during his enslavement on a plantation in Louisiana.

Peter escaped slavery and joined the Union Army during the American Civil War in 1863 - he and three other slaves escaped during the night, one of them was killed by slave hunters. They spent 10 days travelling before reaching a Union encampment at Baton Rouge, where the three men enlisted and fought against the Confederacy.

Peter’s wounds were uncovered during a medical examination and shocked the white northerners who had never seen slavery first hand. The photograph of Whipped Peter was reproduced and distributed across the US. The image helped to turn Americans against slavery, giving lie to the myth that slaves were treated humanely.

Emancipation will focus on Peter’s harrowing journey across the swamps of Louisiana as he strives to escape his pursuers, reach freedom, and fight to protect it by serving in the Union army.

What happened at the Oscars 2022?

At the Oscar awards ceremony held on 28 March this year, Smith stormed the stage at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, and slapped comedian and host Chris Rock across the face after Rock had made a joke about his wife.

Smith then returned to his seat and shouted at Rock to “keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth”. Shortly after Smith hit Rock, he returned to the stage to collect the award for Best Actor for his role in the sports biopic King Richard, where he played tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams’ father.

The actor later apologised for the slap and was banned from all Academy events for 10 years, meaning that regardless of how well Emancipation performs, Smith will not be able to collect any Oscars for the film in person.

Is there a trailer for Emancipation?

Yes there is, and you can watch it right here:

When is the release date for Emancipation?

Emancipation will have a limited cinematic release from Friday 2 December before landing on AppleTV+ on Friday 9 December.