We are slowly approaching the one-year anniversary of Will Smith’s first Oscar win for his critically praised portrayal of Venus and Serena Williams’ father, Richard Williams, in King Richard.
Naturally, the actor’s victory was overshadowed by his encounter with comedian Chris Rock. For the movie Emancipation, directed by Antoine Fuqua, the actor is now performing promotional appearances. Smith’s first theatrical release since the notorious Oscar slap that caused the internet to go crazy is the flick. Smith declined to comment when asked by Variety how the incident affected the film’s distribution, but Fuqua was extremely open about its effects.
The director got down with Variety to talk about the disturbing use of cruelty and violent imagery in his upcoming action thriller, Emancipation, which is set during the American Civil War. Emancipation’s release this year appeared to be in doubt after the Will Smith and Chris Rock Academy Awards confrontation. The filmmaker explained that it was always a dialogue with Apple that led him and the producers to decide to continue forward with the movie’s release. He admitted that they were keeping a careful eye on what people were saying about the upcoming release of the Will Smith-starring film. Fuqua stated to a source:
“It was always a full conversation with Apple. They were very sensitive to myself, to Will, to all the people who worked on the movie. There was never a conversation with me and Apple or my producers, Todd Black and Jon Mone or Heather Washington, about the movie not coming out. It was more about, ‘We’re assessing everything. We’re seeing what people are saying.’ They were very careful about it. Then we showed the film to some people and their reactions were really positive, and we discussed it along the way.”
Early reviews of Emancipation have been overwhelmingly good, with many calling it a potent and must-see emotional film. The filmmaker decided to release the movie this year as a result of the positive response from spectators. Antoine Fuqua expressed his hope that viewers will value 400 years of cruelty and enslavement over a “ugly” Hollywood moment. Additionally, he expressed his gratitude for Apple’s decision to proceed with the film’s distribution. The director went on to say:
“Of course I wanted people to see the film. My conversation was always, “Isn’t 400 years of slavery, of brutality, more important than one bad moment?” We were in Hollywood, and there’s been some really ugly things that have taken place, and we’ve seen a lot of people get awards that have done some really nasty things. So I think Apple considered all those things, and we discussed a lot of those things. Then a decision was made by the people in charge of distribution and the money at Apple—and I’m grateful, I’m really grateful.”
Will Smith’s first project with the director of Training Day and The Equalizer is Emancipation. The two were slated to work together on the film in June 2020, but Smith’s reputation suffered after the world witnessed him slap Chris Rock on live television. Recently, Will Smith recalled an emotional encounter with his nine-year-old nephew while promoting the movie on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.
It’s unclear if Fuqua’s picture will be represented at the Academy Awards, despite the positive reviews Emancipation has received from critics and audiences alike. Smith has expressed his views on how his actions and subsequent Academy exclusion have prevented the team behind the movie from receiving credit for their dedication. He said to Jake Hamilton, a co-host of
“I would just hope that these spectacular artists that have come together on this project, I would hope that they would no be penalized for a few horrific moments of indiscretion on my part.”
Based on a historical incident, the movie Emancipation stars Will Smith as Peter, an escaped slave who eventually enlists in the Union Army after outwitting ruthless hunters. The next film, which was directed by Antoine Fuqua, will debut in theaters on December 2 and be available for streaming on December 9. An Apple TV+ membership is all you need to watch Emancipation in luxury at home.
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