Director Antoine Fuqua has defended releasing his and Will Smith’s upcoming historical thriller, Emancipation, in the wake of the Slap Heard Round the World. In case you somehow did not hear, Will Smith faced significant criticism and punishment after taking the stage during this year’s Oscars ceremony and slapping Chris Rock across the face. Smith has since apologized, been banned from attending the event for ten years, and has had several projects thrown into question. Fuqua though feels that Emancipation’s story of slavery and brutality is far bigger, and far more important than “one bad moment.”
“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.”
The shocking slap, which occurred after Chris Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, came as a huge surprise considering the actor’s typically friendly manner and image. Fuqua, it turns out, was just as shocked as everyone else, with the filmmaker explaining to Vanity Fair that he found it hard to reconcile the moment with the Will Smith he had come to know while filming Emancipation.
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“[The Slap] didn’t feel real to me at all because I was with Will for two years, and I haven’t met a nicer human being. I’m being honest about it. He was kind to everyone on the set. So, I saw a different person than that one moment in time, and so my reaction was that particular moment is very foreign to me when it comes to Will Smith. I have nothing but amazing things to say about Will Smith, really genuinely. You can ask anybody that worked on the movie, they’ll tell you the same. Nicest person I’ve ever met in my life.”
After taking the time also to praise Chris Rock (“Chris is a good guy too”), Fuqua revealed that there was never any question that Emancipation would be released following the Oscars incident. The studio was “very careful” when addressing the project and its release.
Emancipation Will Land on Apple TV+ in December
Directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by William N. Collage, Emancipation stars Will Smith as an enslaved man named Peter, who escapes from a Louisiana plantation, outwitting cold-blooded hunters. He makes his way North, where he joins the Union Army.
The first trailer for Emancipation has now been released, and offers a glimpse at Oscar winner Will Smith’s central performance. A performance that the actor has described as “grueling; physically, emotionally and mentally in every way.”
Starring Will Smith, Ben Foster, Steven Ogg, Charmaine Bingwa, Gilbert Owuor, Mustafa Shakir, and Grant Harvey, Emancipation is scheduled to be released in select cinemas on December 2, 2022, before its streaming release on December 9, 2022, by Apple TV+.