Will Smith Candidly Reacts to Film Fans Avoiding His Latest Blockbuster, ‘Emancipation’

After slapping Chris Rock during the 2022 Oscars, Smith wants filmgoers to know how he really feels about his film boycotts.

Will Smith made history with the slap heard around the world during the 94th Academy Awards, after presenter Chris Rock made a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith.

Smith’s new film Emancipation releases on Dec. 9, and he’s taking time to address the situation for fans, critics, and anyone who may have been affected.

“I completely understand that if someone is not ready [to see the film],” Smith explained in a recent interview clip posted by entertainment reporter Kevin McCarthy. “I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready.”

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During the most recent Oscars event, the Men in Black star left his seat, marched up on stage, exchanged a few choice words, and then physically assaulted Rock with a slap to the face. His actions were in response to Rock referring to Pinkett Smith as “G.I. Jane.”

The encounter left many challenged by the actions. While Smith won the Best Actor for his role in King Richard, the assault resulted in the actor being banned from attending future Academy Award events, according to the Huffington Post.

Emancipation has earned plenty of advance praise, proving that it could be a top contender for this year’s Oscars. But Smith admits that he understands if fans are opposed to seeing it.

The star of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air explained more about his feelings during his latest appearance on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

“I understand how shocking that was for people,” Smith stated. “I was gone. That was a rage that had been bottled for a really long time.”

At that moment, Smith didn’t consider the consequences of his actions. It was in hindsight that he was able to think more clearly, especially when he knew he impacted those closest to him, like his nine-year-old nephew.

“He had stayed up late to see his Uncle Will,” he recalled in the interview. “And we’re sitting in my kitchen, and he’s on my lap and he’s holding the Oscar, and he’s just like, ‘Why did you hit that man, Uncle Will?’…It was a mess.”

Smith is still working to reconcile his thoughts and feelings from that night, and he understands how it may impact the way people see him from now on. During his interview with McCarthy however, he urged viewers to separate him from the whole of the film, which includes hard work from many other talented peers.

“My deepest concern is my team,” Smith explained, sharing how Antoine Fuqua, the film’s director, “has done what I think is the greatest work of his entire career.”

“I’m hoping that the material, the power of the film, the timeliness of the story… will open people’s hearts at a minimum to see and recognize and support the incredible artists in and around this film,” he added.

Emancipation is based on the true story of the life of a man named Gordon, a slave who managed to escape his violent plantation home and join the Union Army when Emancipation gave slaves their freedom. An image of Gordon from 1863, displaying horrifying scars from being viciously whipped by his owners, was frequently used by abolitionists, and inspired the making of the film.

Emancipation hits select theaters on December 2, and will also stream on on Apple TV.

Katka Lapelosova
Kat is a born and raised New Yorker exploring the world as she writes, eats, and everything in between. Read more
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