Will Smith addresses how his infamous Oscars moment might affect the popularity of his upcoming movie Emancipation. Smith suffered a major career blow in the wake of the incident at this year’s Oscars. During the same ceremony when he received his first Best Actor award, the veteran performer instead found backlash after he responded to one of Chris Rock’s jokes by taking the stage and slapping the comedian. The aftermath saw multiple Smith projects postponed and numerous Hollywood peers voicing their anger.
The ire has mostly died down in the eight months since the notorious slap. Smith’s first post-slap release, Emancipation, is set to debut this December. The film is a historical thriller that follows Smith’s character as he evades slave hunters in the swamps of Louisiana, venturing north for freedom. Emancipation is directed by Antoine Fuqua, and is the type of film that would likely garner considerable Oscar buzz if not the slap controversy. While speaking with journalist Kevin McCarthy (via Variety), Smith opened up about the possibility of backlash reemerging ahead of Emancipation’s release. His full quote can be read below:
“I completely understand — if someone is not ready, I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready. My deepest concern is my team – Antoine has done what I think is the greatest work of his entire career. 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. At this point, that’s what I’m working for. I’m hoping that 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. »
The Will Smith Oscar Slap Controversy Explained
Hours into the Oscars ceremony, while presenting the award for Best Documentary, Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head. Smith, Pinkett Smith’s husband, first appeared to take no exception to the joke, chuckling lightly. However, moments later the audience was stunned when Smith hopped up onstage and slapped Rock, shouting at Rock even as he returned to his seat. Not long after, Smith was awarded the Best Actor prize for King Richard, and apologized during his acceptance speech.
The slap quickly overshadowed the rest of the Oscars and was the main subject of discussion after the ceremony concluded, when it was revealed that Smith had slapped Rock because he was being protective of Pinkett Smith’s alopecia condition. In the weeks following the award show, Smith was chastised by many Hollywood peers, and the Academy reportedly mulled a suspension. In the end, Smith resigned from the Academy and has been banned from the Oscars for ten years. The controversy has since died down, allowing Smith to quietly pursue upcoming projects, Emancipation being the first and foremost among them.
How Will Audiences React To Emancipation?
The infamous slap was something of a litmus test, dividing fans into anti-Smith and sympathetic camps. With Emancipation’s forthcoming release, moviegoers will be given an opportunity to ruminate once again on the idea of Smith continuing his career. On one side, the lack of any real repercussions for the slap might leave a portion of Emancipation’s audience resentful of the film. However, there is likely an equally large set of fans who are ready to move on. Smith has been a Hollywood mainstay for decades, and his disappearance from cinema entirely would undoubtedly constitute a loss. Emancipation, then, can be used as an experiment. If the movie is a success, then perhaps Smith can return to the public eye with ease. However, a chillier response might indicate Smith has more work to do. Nevertheless, all eyes will be on Emancipation upon its release in December.
Source: Kevin McCarthy (via Variety)