Will Smith has signed on to take the lead as a runaway slave in the thriller ‘Emancipation,’ with Antoine Fuqua in the director’s chair.

Per Deadline, the film is based on a true story, fueled by an indelible image; when Peter showed his bare back during an Army medical examination, photos were taken of the scars from a whipping delivered by an overseer on the plantation owned by John and Bridget Lyons that nearly killed him. When the photo known as “the scourged back” was published by the Independent in May, 1863 and then in Harper’s Weekly‘s July 4 issue, it became indisputable proof of the cruelty and barbarity of slavery in America. The photo reached around the world, and legend has it that it made countries like France refuse to buy cotton from the South. It solidified the cause of abolitionists and prompted many free blacks to join the Union Army.

Filming on the thriller is expected to get underway early 2021, with William N. Collage providing the script. The movie will be introduced to buyers at the upcoming virtual Cannes market.