Just two weeks before it was set to hit theaters on Dec. 6, Apple’s first narrative feature film, the period drama “The Banker,” is being indefinitely pulled from release as the company investigates sexual abuse allegations concerning one of the movie’s co-producers.
The decision marks a significant setback for Apple, which had hoped to position the uplifting, racially inflected film as its first awards hopeful as it launches itself into the fiercely competitive realm of original films and television series with its new Apple TV+ service.
Directed by George Nolfi, “The Banker”chronicles the real-life story of African American entrepreneurs Bernard Garrett (Anthony Mackie) and Joe Morris (Samuel L. Jackson), who recruited a white man (Nicholas Hoult) to pose as the head of their business in order to overcome racial barriers in the real estate and banking industries of the 1950s and ’60s.
Apple had been screening “The Banker’ for journalists and critics in recent weeks to try to gain traction for the film as Oscar season kicks into high gear. But those hopes recently dimmed as allegations by two of Garrett’s daughters surfaced that their half-brother, Bernard Garrett Jr., a co-producer on “The Banker,” had sexually molested them when they were children and that the film misrepresents the family’s history.
With controversy brewing, Apple removed Garrett’s name from the film’s credits and abruptly canceled this week’s planned world premiere at AFI Fest. In a statement released Wednesday, Apple said, “We purchased ‘The Banker’ earlier this year as we were moved by the film’s entertaining and educational story about social change and financial literacy. Last week some concerns surrounding the film were brought to our attention. We, along with the filmmakers, need some time to look into these matters and determine the best next steps.”
Following its limited theatrical run, “The Banker” had been slated to hit Apple’s streaming service in January. Asked if that release would be delayed as well, representatives for Apple did not immediately respond.