After months away from the Hollywood spotlight, Will Smith could have his shot at redemption with a highly anticipated movie coming to theaters and on a major streaming platform.
What Happened: In one of the most talked about entertainment stories of 2021, Will Smith slapped Academy Award host Chris Rock after a joke was made about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith.
The slap resulted in Smith making a public apology, being banned from the annual award ceremony for ten years, and movie studios facing decisions on what to do with movies that star the actor.
One movie is moving ahead with its plan to release in theaters and on a streaming platform, even with Smith starring in the movie.
“Emancipation” stars Smith as an enslaved man who escapes slave hunters. The movie is directed by Antoine Fuqua, well-known for directing movies like “The Equalizer,” “Southpaw,” “The Magnificent Seven” and “Training Day.”
Apple Inc AAPL acquired the rights to the movie in a record-breaking auction in 2020 at a rumored $120 million.
A private screening of the movie was held during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual Legislative Conference recently. The screening was hosted by Apple and the NAACP.
Speaking to Deadline, Fuqua said “it felt incredible” to finally have an audience see the movie.
“To watch people react, gasping, talking and commenting on things that were happening in the film, really all the things you hope your movie would do for an audience,” Fuqua said.
Apple will release the movie in theaters on Dec. 2, 2022 and make the movie available on its streaming platform AppleTV+ on Dec. 9, 2022.
Why It’s Important: Prior to Smith’s slap at the Academy Awards, the movie was seen as a favorite for the next award show season. Smith won the Best Actor Oscar for his work on “King Richard” and could have been a favorite to win the award in back-to-back years.
Questions remain as to whether Hollywood and moviegoers will support movies that star Smith after the events that happened at the Academy Awards. Prior to the event, Smith was one of the highest grossing actors and considered by many to be one of the biggest blockbuster sure things for movie studios.
Fuqua said Apple never stopped talking about releasing the film after Smith’s famous slap.
“Will Smith is a great guy. I was with him for a couple of years, making this movie. He is a wonderful person, an amazing partner, and he did an amazing job on this movie,” Fuqua said. “Chris Rock’s a good guy. I know Chris as well…and I just pray it works out for them as friends, and we can move forward.”
Apple could have a hit at theaters, on its streaming platform and at award shows if “Emancipation” is well received and people can look past the prior Smith event. Apple became the first streaming company to win the Best Picture Oscar with “CODA” in 2021.
Fuqua called “Emancipation” the strongest piece of work he’s ever made and his “most important film.”
Apple previously delayed the film until 2023, a move that has been reversed and could help them win several awards against potentially lighter competition.
Netflix Inc NFLX, Sony Group Corp SONY and Warner Bros. Discovery WBD are studios that were previously mentioned by Benzinga as having works with Smith attached.
A strong showing and strong reviews for “Emancipation” could help these companies decide what to do with their works moving forward.
Photo: Courtesy of Gage Skidmore on flickr
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