At the beginning of the year, the insiders spoke very positively of Emancipationa film set in the period of the American Civil War and directed by Antoine Fuqua, director of, among other things Training Dayfor which Denzel Washington won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2002. Apple, the main company that produced it, was aiming to release it by the end of this year and was counting on several nominations for the next Oscars.
But the plans were turned upside down by the lead actor of the film, Will Smith, who slapped and insulted comedian Chris Rock last March during the 94th Oscars ceremony. Smith’s gesture had raised a lot of controversy and aroused a very harsh reaction from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the association that among other things awards the Oscars, and it is probably why Apple has not yet communicated the release date of the film.
Emancipation tells the story of a slave – played by Smith – who escapes from a Louisiana plantation after risking being killed. Shooting on the $ 120 million film concluded last February. About a month later Smith had reacted violently to Rock’s joke aboutalopecia (a disease involving hair loss) of his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Due to the slap, Smith resigned from the Academy, of which he was a member along with thousands of other film professionals, and it was later announced that he would not be able to attend Oscar ceremonies for the next ten years.
According to some industry experts, a slice of the public may decide not to go and see Emancipation precisely because there is Smith, while according to others a possible critical success – connected or not to Smith’s interpretation – could annoy the members of the Academy, who felt offended by his behavior during the last ceremony. Smith, who, moreover, on the same evening as the slap had won the Oscar for best actor for A winning family – King Richard, has not in fact lost the right to obtain an Oscar nomination. However, it is believed that because of the slap the chances of it happening are very few.
How he asked himself Stephen Galloway, dean of Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts and former editor-in-chief ofHollywood Reporter“self [Apple] will he decide to put the film aside, will his reputation be damaged? And if you decide to let him out? ». “Hollywood likes situations win-winGalloway continued, referring to those circumstances in which the outcome, although uncertain, is positive in any case. “But this is one [situazione] lose-lose»: That is, there will most likely be negative consequences whatever you choose to do.
Three people involved in the making of the film who spoke with the New York Times anonymously they said that they have been inside Apple many discussions regarding the possibility of releasing the film by the end of this year. It was in fact expected that Emancipation could be the new flagship film for the company, which it had recently released The signs of the heart – TAILawarded as best film at the latest Oscars. Variety however he wrote that his release would be postponed to 2023 precisely because of the controversy surrounding Smith’s gesture, which had clearly overshadowed the success of TAIL.
Former executive director of Fox Searchlight film studio Stephen Gilula noted that if the film were released in the next few months it would risk not being judged objectively, regardless of its qualities. Others, on the other hand, believe that it is too good for its release to be postponed further: the employees involved in the production of the film heard from the New York Times they said that a preview screening in Chicago at the beginning of the year had shown very positive reactions, especially for Smith’s performance. Also according to them, the people who had seen the film had not said they were particularly bothered by the issue of the slap.
– Read also: The day after Will Smith’s slap
After the Oscars ceremony, Smith had apologized to Chris Rock, but he had hardly seen himself in public again and had also been very absent from social networks. Then at the end of July he shared a video in which he explained that he “thought a lot” and “worked on himself,” and apologized to Rock again.
It is unclear whether the video helped improve the public’s perception of him. Based on data collected by Variety, in recent years Smith had always been in the top five – along with Tom Hanks and Keanu Reeves for example – of a classification which measures the popularity rating of celebrities in the United States: after the slap, however, its popularity had dropped a lot.
Apple did not answer questions from the New York Times with respect to the release date of Emancipation and at the same time refused to make further comments on the film. According to people who have talked about it anonymously, however, it is likely that Apple will not try to make more effort than expected to advertise it, and may even decide not to include it in the offer on its streaming platform.
Variety noted that in one way or another “there will never be a “perfect” moment to release a work by Smith in the future – in 2022, as in ten years’ time “and that at the same time” the public will never forget his gesture “. For this, second VarietyApple, Westbrook Studios and all the producers involved in making Emancipation they should simply “grit their teeth” and proceed with its release, which could also become “an opportunity to learn something.”