Apple has canceled the AFI Fest premiere of its first major film release, The Banker. The film stars Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, Nia Long, Nicholas Hoult and Jessie T. Usher.
The news first broke Wednesday evening (Nov. 20) that the film, set to be in theaters followed by an Apple TV+ release, would not be premiering at the festival. Apple sent a statement to media outlets, saying, “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.”
Here’s the official description: Based on a true story, The Banker centers on revolutionary businessmen Bernard Garrett (Anthony Mackie) and Joe Morris (Samuel L. Jackson), who devise an audacious and risky plan to take on the racist establishment of the 1960s by helping other African Americans pursue the American dream of homeownership. Along with Garret’s wife Eunice (Nia Long), they train a working-class white man, Matt Steiner (Nicholas Hoult), to pose as the rich and privileged face of their burgeoning real estate and banking empire–while Garrett and Morris pose as a janitor and a chauffeur. Their success ultimately draws the attention of the federal government, which threatens everything the four have built. The drama is directed by George Nolfi and produced by Joe Viertel.
The Hollywood Reporter later published a story detailing what’s going on. The real-life son of Bernard Garrett, played by Mackie, is accused of sexually abusing his younger half-sisters. Bernard Garrett Jr. was a consultant on the film and was initially credited as a producer. He is the son of Garrett Sr. and Eunice Garrett, portrayed by Nia Long. After Garrett Sr. and Eunice divorced, he remarried and had two other daughters.
THR’s report reads, “Garrett Jr.’s half-sisters, roughly 15 years his junior, have recently made Apple aware of their claim that when he was a young man living in their home, he sexually molested them over the course of a few years. The sisters made the claim in connection with separate allegations that the timeline of the film was tweaked in order to leave the girls and their mother out of the story and instead feature Bernard Garrett Sr.’s first wife, even though he had already divorced her by the time of some of the events depicted in the film. One of the sisters, Cynthia Garrett, has been speaking privately with women’s groups about her abuse claims and named a relative in her 2016 self-published book. She is also authoring a new book outlining her survival, which is due from Salem/Regnery Books next year. Apple was informed of Cynthia Garrett’s concerns via an attorney who asked that the tech giant shelve the movie.”
The Garrett daughters claim that the abuse happened in the 1970s after Garrett Sr. returned from prison. When he came home, their older half-brother was invited to stay with them. The report states, “Cynthia Garrett says she and her sister, Sheila Garrett, kept their abuse secret for a decade, even from each other, until her parents divorced and one day in the early 1980s her half-brother visited her mother’s home when all three were still living there. When her younger sister refused to leave her bedroom to greet him, Cynthia Garrett inquired as to why, and her accusations spilled forth. Realizing that day that both of them had been abused, they confided in their mother, Linda, who backs up her daughter’s account of that day. A few years later, Sheila Garrett says she told her father, too, of the abuse.” In the report, Shelia Garrett says, “He kind of, basically, swept it under the rug. And when I got married, I told my father I did not want Bernard Jr. there, so my father didn’t come to my wedding.”
The report continues, “Sources close to The Banker say neither Apple nor the filmmakers were aware of the allegations against Garrett Jr. until about a week ago; the company bought the film in July after it was already completed. An attorney for producer Romulus Entertainment tells The Hollywood Reporter that Garrett Jr. stepped down as a producer recently to avoid taking attention away from his father’s story. The film is said to be based on hours of interviews with the late Garrett Sr., as well as his life rights and court documents.” Romulus also says the film’s description would be changed to “based on true events.”
Right now, it is unknown if The Banker‘s Dec. 6 limited theatrical release will remain, or when it will hit Apple TV+. As its first major film, there was sure to be a major awards push for the movie and its stars.
Photo: Apple TV+