It looks like Apple’s ambitions to produce movies for the big screen may have hit a snag, with the company abruptly cancelling its plans to debut its first highly-anticipated feature film at the AFI Fest film festival tonight.
Apple’s The Banker, a high-profile film starring Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Mackie, was set to be the company’s first major original film release, scheduled to open in traditional theatres on Dec. 6 and coming to Apple TV+ early in the new year. In fact, it was such a big move that Apple had managed to arrange a headline-making debut on the closing gala night of the AFI Film Festival — except now that it looks like Apple has decided this won’t be happening.
According to Deadline, AFI Fest has been forced to make a last-minute switch of its closing night film after Apple pulled the premiere, leaving the film with an uncertain future. Adding insult to injury, a Netflix original, Marriage Story will be taking the coveting closing gala night slot instead.
The decision was apparently the result of some potentially damaging allegations that have surfaced regarding the story behind the film, which has Jackson and Mackie portraying two real-life African American men who fought to build a real estate and banking empire in 1963, helping their communities flourish at a time when racism was rampant, offering African Americans loans and real estate deals that they would have otherwise been denied access to by the predominantly white banking system.
Apple’s official statement on the matter is that “some concerns surrounding the film” were brought to its attention, and Apple and the filmmakers now “need some time to look into these matters and determine the best next steps.” While Apple confirmed that it’s no longer premiering The Banker at AFI Fest, it has said nothing about whether it still plans to bring the movie to theatres as scheduled on Dec. 6.
While Apple has otherwise been quiet on the matter, Deadline has independently learned that a family member of the late Bernard Garrett Sr., the role played by Anthony Mackie, has raised some potentially damaging charges, although they reportedly don’t involve anybody who is actually depicted in the film itself.
According to Deadline, the allegations are concerning the son of the lead character, Bernard Garrett Jr., who worked as a consultant during production and has been involved in Q&A’s and promotional activities surrounding the film. These allegations have apparently been shared with at least one Hollywood trade paper which already has a story in the works, so it seems likely we’ll hear more specific details soon.
It’s not clear how much Apple knows about the situation, but it’s clear that the company has decided that it would be bad form to debut the film this week under the circumstances, and it’s decided to step back while it gets further information and clarification and waits for the dust to settle.
Other Films Still on Track
While the loss of such a high-profile unveiling of The Banker undoubtedly stings for Apple, it seems Apple’s other film projects remain on track. The company has already debuted the documentary film The Elephant Queen in theatres back in October, in time for it to arrive on Apple TV+ on Nov. 1, and Apple’s next feature film, Hala, is on track for a theatrical release this Friday, Nov. 22, followed by a Dec. 6 debut on Apple TV+.
However, both of these films weren’t actually produced under Apple’s auspices, but rather picked up from film festivals; The Elephant Queen was first shown at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and Hala premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival back in January, with Apple simply buying the finished products to bring to its own service. By contrast, The Banker would have been Apple’s first truly original feature film. That said, there’s a good chance we’ll still be able to see it, as it seems unlikely the allegations would be serious enough to scrub the film entirely, particularly since they don’t concern any of the characters who are actually in the film itself.