Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Mackie have defended the content of their stalled film The Banker following sexual molestation allegations made against a co-producer.
Apple bosses pulled The Banker from closing the AFI Fest in Los Angeles last month and subsequently scrapped the movie's December cinema release amid an investigation surrounding Bernard Garrett Jr., the son of pioneering African-American banker Bernard Garrett, who is portrayed onscreen by Mackie.
Garrett Jr. has been accused of assaulting his half-sisters Cynthia and Sheila Garrett in the early 1970s, when he was a teen, but he has staunchly denied the claims, insisting it "simply never happened".
The scandal cost him a co-producer credit on The Banker and left the film in limbo.
Now, the cast and crew of the project, including director George Nolfi and stars Mackie, Jackson, Nicholas Hoult, and Nia Long, have all signed a statement expressing their support for the movie and its "positive message of empowerment".
"We set out to tell a story we were very passionate about, recounting the remarkable lives of Bernard Garrett, Sr. and (his partner) Joe Morris, and their ground-breaking achievements combating racial inequality in the 1950s and '60s," reads the note. "Though we have no way of knowing what may have transpired between Mr. Garrett's children in the 1970s, including the allegations of abuse we have recently been made aware of, our hearts go out to anyone who has suffered.
"The film itself is not based on the recollections of any of Bernard Garrett, Sr.'s children, but rather, on recorded interviews with Bernard Garrett, Sr. himself, conducted in 1995, supported by congressional transcripts, court rulings, and other media articles from the era. We stand by the film, and its positive message of empowerment."
Garrett Sr. and Morris, played onscreen by Jackson, bought up banks in Texas in the 1950s. They then hired a white man to front the operation while they pretended to be a janitor and a chauffeur.