Will Smith says he’ll ‘fully understand’ if fans don’t see ‘Emancipation’ after the Oscars slap
Will Smith, the contentious hero of the historical drama Emancipation, is the center of attention as the Apple TV+ Oscar contender enters the race. It’s the actor’s first significant film role since the 94th Academy Awards in March when he stunned spectators by slapping Chris Rock after the comedian delivered a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and won the Best Actor award for King Richard. Smith made it clear in a recent interview that he wants viewers to pay attention to the rest of the film’s creative crew.
“My deepest concern is my team,” the Men in Black star told Fox 5’s, Kevin McCarthy. “The people on this team have done some of the best work of their entire careers, and my deepest hope is that my actions don’t penalize my team.”
Emancipation, the newest movie from Antoine Fuqua, the creator of blockbusters like Training Day and The Equalizer, will have a theatrical debut on December 2 and a streaming debut on December 9. The film, which is set during the Civil War, depicts the true story of a slave named Peter who joined the Union Army in order to flee a harsh life in the Deep South. Smith says he thinks Fuqua has surpassed himself and that this is the first time they have worked together. Smith makes the statement, “Antoine has done what I think is the greatest work of his entire career,” while also praising the talents of Robert Richardson, the director of photography, and other cast members like Ben Foster and Charmaine Bingwa.
The actor is obviously well aware that the Oscar-night smack is still having an impact on the industry and may prevent viewers from seeing Emancipation in theaters or at home. In response to McCarthy’s question about what he would say to potential moviegoers who aren’t quite ready to watch a Will Smith film right now, Smith says he would “totally understand” their response.
“I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready,” he says, reiterating his hope that both audiences and Hollywood at large will look beyond his presence in the movie to let other people’s work shine through. “At this point, that’s what I’m hoping for,” he remarks. “I’m hoping the material, the power of the film, the timeliness of the story—I’m hoping that the good that can be done would open people’s hearts at a minimum to see and recognize and support the incredible artists in and around this film.”
Similar comments were shared by Smith during a roundtable discussion with Entertainment Weekly that included some of the movie’s cast members. “The only discomfort my heart has around that is that so many people have done spectacular work on this film,” he remarks. “I definitely lose a couple of winks of sleep every night thinking that I could have potentially penalized my team, but I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that everyone gets seen in the light that they deserve.”
Notably, despite the Academy’s decision to bar Smith from the Oscars for ten years following the March telecast—after the actor had already left the group—hhe is still qualified to be nominated for Best Actor. Jimmy Kimmel will be hosting the Oscars next year, and if Emancipation ends up doing well at the awards, it will bring more drama to the event. Rock reportedly said that he was offered the opportunity to host the Oscars in 2023 but turned it down. Also unaccepted by the comedian are Smith’s apologies, which he extended in a September YouTube video.