When Apple TV Plus acquired "The Banker," a film about two black businessmen circumventing racist practices during the 1950s and '60s, it seemed to throw the new streaming service into awards-show contention.
But the release next week of the film, which is inspired by real events, has now been delayed, the Associated Press reported. It's unclear when the film, which stars Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Mackie, will be available in theaters or on Apple's streaming service. The move came as relatives of one of the film's real-life subjects made sexual misconduct accusations against another relative involved with "The Banker."
Here is a guide to the controversy surrounding the film:
What is the film about?
George Nolfi's "The Banker" is based on two real people. Jackson and Mackie star as Joe Morris and Bernard Garrett, two black businessmen who recruit a working class white man to serve as the face of their real estate and banking empire. Meanwhile, Garrett and Morris pose as chauffeur and janitor as the business grows.
The men eventually attracted law enforcement's attention and eventually were convicted of misusing bank funds.
What are the accusations?
Cynthia Garrett, a former VH1 and MTV interviewer and founder of Cynthia Garrett Ministries, is one of the daughters of Bernard Garrett Sr. (played by Mackie). In a statement, she accuses her half brother, Bernard Garrett Jr., of repeatedly sexually abusing her and her sister when they were girls. She also accuses Garrett Jr. of misrepresenting their father's life story. She called the project "an exploitative orientation of our family."
Garrett Jr., who had been reportedly listed as a producer on the film, appeared onstage alongside the director during a Nov. 5 IndieWire event.
This week, Garrett Jr. publicly denied the accusations. "These charges against me are deeply humiliating and frustrating because I can never prove how false they are," he said in a statement published by Deadline. He added that he removed his name from the movie credits and stepped away from the project "so as to not tarnish my father's Legacy."
The siblings are also in a public dispute related to Garrett Sr.'s marriage to his second wife, who is the mother of Cynthia and her sister, but is not portrayed in the film.
What caused "The Banker" delay?
Apple TV Plus, which launched earlier this month, acquired "The Banker" after the movie was complete. The Hollywood Reporter, citing "sources close to 'The Banker,'" reported that Apple and the filmmakers were unaware of the accusations until recently.
Last week, Apple abruptly canceled the premiere of "The Banker" at AFI Fest. Netflix's "Marriage Story" closed out the film festival instead. "We support Apple's decision to postpone the premiere of 'The Banker,' " a festival spokesperson said.
But neither Apple nor the production company Romulus has publicly stated that the delay is related to the accusations leveled by Cynthia Garrett. (Neither company has responded to The Post's inquiries about the allegations).
"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," Apple said in a statement provided last week to several media outlets. "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."
Has anything like this happened before?
Off-screen controversy has previously affected an AFI Fest closing-night film: In 2017, Sony pulled "All the Money in the World" amid allegations of sexual assault against its star, Kevin Spacey. Ridley Scott eventually reshot Spacey's scenes, replacing the actor with Christopher Plummer.
Questions about veracity have also dogged recent "based on true events" films such as "Green Book." The family of one of the subjects, Don Shirley, publicly spoke out against the on-screen portrayal, saying that the producers never reached out to them. (Shirley's brother, Maurice, called the portrayal "a symphony of lies.")
"Green Book" went on to win the Academy Award for best picture earlier this year, and Mahershala Ali, who played Shirley, won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his portrayal (he thanked Shirley in his Oscar acceptance speech, and the family wished him well after he won the Golden Globe).