2022 should’ve been an incredible year for Will Smith. After being in the business for over 30 years, the actor was finally being recognized by the Academy for his strong performance in King Richard. However, there’s still a black cloud hanging over the Oscar winner. Though Smith left the 2022 Academy Awards with the prestigious Best Actor trophy, all anyone could talk about was the infamous slap to comedian Chris Rock. Whatever side you stand on when it comes to the situation, there’s no denying that Smith’s career has faltered because of that one moment.
Hollywood has hit pause on Will Smith; the actor notably had Netflix pull back on Bright 2 and Fast & Loose. Bad Boys 4 is also on pause, though Martin Lawrence has stated that the fourth installment is back on track. Will Smith’s violent outburst has definitely ruffled some feathers, but it would be shocking if his career ended, given all the goodwill he’s done because of this one blunder. Perhaps the big question is: Is Will Smith still a blockbuster draw? That likely won’t be answered here, though his new historical thriller comes with a hefty price tag of $120 million. Its box office legs have been cut due to the fact that it’ll mostly play on Apple TV+. The shine is still put on Will Smith and whether he can still draw fans to the upcoming slavery feature. Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer) based on the script written by William N. Collage (Exodus: Gods and Kings, Assassin’s Creed), the synopsis of the latest Will Smith feature is below:
“Emancipation tells the triumphant story of Peter (Smith), a man who escapes from slavery, relying on his wits, unwavering faith and deep love for his family to evade cold-blooded hunters and the unforgiving swamps of Louisiana on his quest for freedom. The film is inspired by the 1863 photos of Whipped Peter, taken during a Union Army medical examination, that first appeared in Harper’s Weekly. One image, known as “The Scourged Back,” which shows Peter’s bare back mutilated by a whipping delivered by his enslavers, ultimately contributed to growing public opposition to slavery.”
Clearly, this has Oscar bait written all over it. Though admittedly, the trailer is pretty strong. Despite Will Smith’s 10-year ban from the Oscars gala and other Academy events, he’s still eligible to be nominated for another Best Actor Oscar. Initially, the film was set to make the festival rounds this fall; however, it’s clear that Smith’s situation has hampered the way this film has premiered. However, Emancipation has held private screenings as of late, and the buzz seems to be all positive thus far, with the feature preparing to open in select theaters on December 2, a week before its launch on Apple TV+.
While Smith isn’t doing many media rounds for the upcoming historical thriller, Antoine Fuqua has been opening up about Emancipation and his concern over the feature being shelved following the big incident at the Oscars. Luckily, Apple didn’t even consider that notion, and Fuqua discusses why he wanted to make Emancipation in the first place:
“The reason I wanted to make the movie was to remind young people of the brutality of how human beings treat each other, out of greed and ignorance.” Fuqua told the LA Times. We’re seeing more of that brutality today in Europe and different parts of the world. It doesn’t seem like we are remembering our pasts. That’s a great responsibility.”
“I’m hoping to hit a nerve, for people to seek some truth about what slavery really was and have the conversation to try to start some sort of healing process. To even begin a real conversation, you’ve got to start with the truth – the brutality of the truth. We’ve got to start somewhere.”
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