Smith said to GQ that his film will have a lot more "love" in the film than Quentin Tarantino's film about a former slave who goes after the evil Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), the slaveowner who bought Django's wife (Kerry Washington). Smith was initially expected to star in Django, but he turned it down.
"I didn't want to make a slavery film about vengeance," he said, adding that for him, the Django story was nearly perfect except for Tarantino's focus on revenge.
"To me, it's as perfect a story as you could ever want: a guy that learns how to kill to retrieve his wife that has been taken as a slave. That idea is perfect. And it was just that Quentin and I couldn't see [eye to eye]," he continued. "I wanted to make that movie so badly, but I felt the only way was, it had to be a love story, not a vengeance story."
Emancipation will star Smith as a slave named Peter who escapes his plantation after being nearly whipped to death. Peter eventually joins the Union Army and fights in the Civil War before becoming a symbol of the growing abolitionist movement of the 1800s. The film is based on the true story about "Whipped Peter."
Emancipation, he said, gave him the emotional side he wanted from Django, saying, "This was one that was about love and the power of Black love. And that was something that I could rock with. We were going to make a story about how Black love makes us invincible."
Emancipation will be directed by Antoine Fuqua and will be released through Apple+ He is currently starring in King Richard, the biopic of Richard Williams, the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams.