The year has not been ideal for Will Smith, largely because of his own actions. In March this year, Smith slapped presenter Chris Rock over a joke comedian-actor had made on Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, in an incident that can best be described as chivalry gone wrong. While Smith went on to win his first Oscar for ‘King Richard’ later in the ceremony, the Academy banned him for 10 years from the Oscars and all related events. He has also been criticised by many in Hollywood Smith has apologised for his actions, including publicly in a video addressed to Rock. However, it might be a while before he recovers his reputation, if ever.
Meanwhile, Smith’s Antoine Fuqua-directed historical thriller ‘Emancipation’, in which the actor plays the role of an ex-slave who escapes his captors. The film has Peter, Smith’s character evading pursuers to reach North and joining the Union Army, the force that vanquished the slavery-supporting Confederate States Army. The film, penned by William N. Collage, is based on a fascinating real story of Gordon or ‘Whipped Slave’. The image of his back, marked with scars of whipping, was one of the most remarkable photos of the Civil War era.
In a screening of the film, Hollywood bigwigs like singer Rihanna, comedian Dave Chappelle, actor-director Tyler Perry, rapper ASAP Rocky, among others were present.
Smith shared a picture on his Instagram that shows him and other luminaries at the screening. “EPIC night!! Thanx for coming to see #Emancipation. Hope ya’ll enjoyed!!” he wrote in the caption.
It is telling that Smith’s film is being supported by luminaries in the entertainment industry. Despite what happened, he does not seem to have overly suffered much due to a very public act of violence that would have wrecked many others’ careers.
Perhaps Smith’s apology video helped? In a July video titled ‘It’s been a minute…’ that Smith shared on his social media accounts, he said he has been doing a lot of thinking and has decided to answer a few fair questions that have been posed to him regarding the slap.
In an answer to a question as to why he did not apologise to Rock in his acceptance speech, he said, “I was fogged out by that point. It’s all fuzzy.” He went on to say that he reached out to Rock but received the answer that he is not ready to talk to him at the moment.
“Chris, I apologise to you. My behaviour was unacceptable. I am here whenever you are ready to talk,” Smith said. He added, “That was one of the things about that moment. I just didn’t realise. I wasn’t thinking but how many people got hurt in that moment. So I want to apologise to Chris’ mother. I want to apologise to Chris’ family.”
‘Emancipation’ will release in US theatres on December 2, before released on Apple TV+ in the US and elsewhere from December 9.