Stories like this need to be told.
It’s the shared sentiment echoed by award-winning actors Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie, and Nia Long as they discussed the upcoming film, “The Banker.”
The trio premiered the movie at a special screening at the National Civil Rights Museum, Monday. They were joined by several other cast members and the film’s producers and director.
Based on a true story, “The Banker” chronicles the lives of revolutionary businessmen Bernard Garrett (Mackie) and Joe Morris (Jackson). In an effort to take on the racist banking establishment of the 1960’s, the two men devise a risky plan to help other African Americans achieve the “American Dream.”
Garrett and Morris enlist Garrett’s wife Eunice (Long), to help 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. Meanwhile the two men take on the roles of a janitor and a chauffeur. Their financial success ultimately draws the attention of the federal government, which threatens everything they have built.
“Every once in awhile you hear a story that’s unique, and that’s what immediately struck me about ‘The Banker,’” says the film’s director, producer, and co-screenwriter George Nolfi. “I wondered, did that that really happen – that two black gentlemen bought 177 houses in Los Angeles, as well as one of the city’s most iconic buildings? Then they purchased two banks in the Jim Crow South and wore janitor and chauffeur uniforms to disguise the fact that they were the buildings’ owners…and then became largely erased from history?”
After being introduced to the script, Mackie said he was the one who took it to Jackson, hoping he would get involved.
“We know how hard it is to have our stories told, so when I read the script and then Sam got on board I was jumping for joy,” Mackie stated. “One thing about Sam is that when everyone wouldn’t take a role like this, Sam decided to do it. He humbled himself and said yes when others said no.”
Jackson said he loves telling stories that ‘stick it to the Man,’ and hopes that the film inspires others to take action.
“A story like this needs to be told over and over again,” Jackson added. “It shows that theoretically some things have changed, but it also shows that many things have stayed the same.”
Long said despite the hardships the two businessmen endured throughout the film, it also highlights their determination to succeed.
“The story is about more than just a struggle,” the actress said. “Oftentimes black people are taught just to survive; but in this film you’ll actually see two men succeed and become a part of change.”
The star-studded event at the National Civil Rights Museum brought out media outlets from across the country.
“They could have had this screening anywhere- Los Angeles or New York- but they chose to have it here at the museum,” said Faith Morris, the National Civil Rights Museum’s chief marketing and external affairs officer.
Notable Memphis leaders were also present at the screening, including Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray.
“The Banker” will premiere in select theaters on Friday, March 6, and on streaming Apple TV+ March 20.
Gallery: Photos by Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises