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Will Smith Halts Movie Production in Georgia, Citing Election Law

Will Smith at the German premiere of ‘Bad Boys for Life’ at the cinema Zoo Palast in Berlin, Germany, January 7, 2020. (Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters)

Actor Will Smith and Director Antoine Fuqua announced on Monday that they would move production of their movie Emancipation out of Georgia, in protest of the state’s new voting legislation.

The $120 million production for Apple Studios was set to begin this summer, and depicts the story of a runaway slave who joined the Union army during the Civil War.

“At this moment in time, the nation is coming to terms with its history and is attempting to eliminate vestiges of institutional racism to achieve true racial justice,” Smith and Fuqua said in a statement. “We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access.”

The two added that “the new Georgia voting laws are reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting.” It was not immediately clear where production of the movie would move.

Georgia lawmakers passed a elections laws last month mandating that voters present photo identification, limits the early voting period in runoff elections, and bans political groups and campaigns from distributing food or drink at polling places. The legislation comes after President Trump alleged that Democrats “stole” the elections in Georgia. President Biden and other Democrats have compared the legislation to Jim Crow laws designed to keep African Americans from voting.

Georgia has become a major film production center because of state tax breaks. Tyler Perry’s production company is headquartered in Atlanta, and Marvel runs studios in Fayetteville. While Perry has also criticized the state’s new election laws as reminiscent of the Jim Crow era, he appeared to caution against boycotting the state.

“As some consider boycotting, please remember that we did turn Georgia blue and there is a gubernatorial race on the horizon – that’s the beauty of a democracy,” Perry said in comments reported by Deadline.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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