Apple cancels Atlanta-produced ‘The Banker’ debut after sexual abuse claims against real-life subject’s son

Originally posted Friday, November 22, 2019 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

A film based on a real story called “The Banker” shot in metro Atlanta and starring Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Mackie was suddenly pulled from the AFI Fest this week. Two half sisters of the son of the primary subject of the film - set in the 1950s and 1960s - informed Apple TV+ he had allegedly sexually abused them.

Cynthia and Sheila Garrett said Bernard Garrett Jr. molested them for several years when he was a younger man. 

The film, about two black entrepreneurs who hired a white man to play their front man to buy buildings and a bank, focuses on Mackie’s super smart character Bernard Garrett Sr., who has since passed. He is shown in the film to be happily married to Eunice Garrett played by Nia long.

Garrett Jr. was a producer on the movie and has stepped down since the allegations came out. 

Cynthia and Sheila noted that the timeline in the film was rejiggered to exclude them and their mother, who was Garrett’s second wife. 

“This entire project is poisoned. It’s the fruit of crime, lies and deception,” she wrote in an open letter that she says she plans to publish online and gave to the Hollywood Reporter.

According to a Hollywood Reporter story, “Apple was informed of Cynthia Garrett’s concerns via an attorney who asked that the tech giant shelve the movie.” Apple was only informed a few days before the scheduled film debut at AFI Fest. 

Apple was set to release the film in December for limited theatrical release in time for awards season, then for wide release on its new streaming service in January. As of Friday, the December 6 release date has been nixed and it’s unclear when it will even hit the theaters. It also brings into question whether the film will be released at all on Apple+ or anywhere for that matter. 

I was scheduled to talk to Mackie Friday about the film but that was cancelled at the same time as the film’s scheduled debut at AFI Fest Thursday. 

Apple released this statement: 

“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. In light of this, we are no longer premiering The Banker at AFI Fest.”

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.