Will Smith in Emancipation. Ben Foster, Steven Ogg and Charmaine Bingwa also star. Photograph: YouTube
Actor will compete against a thriller that will now be released in December after Chris Rock’s slap prohibited him from attending Academy functions
With the unexpected revelation that his slavery drama Emancipation would be released in December, Will Smith is poised to contend for the award for best actor the following year.
The 2022 release date for the Apple movie, which Training Day director Antoine Fuqua was set to helm, was scrapped when the actor smacked Chris Rock at the Oscars ceremony this year, just before he went on to win best actor for his performance in King Richard.
The movie Emancipation, which reportedly has a $120 million budget, is based on the historical account of an enslaved man who, in the 1860s, escaped from a Louisiana plantation and traveled to the north to enlist in the Union army. Also starring are Ben Foster, Steven Ogg, and Charmaine Bingwa.
An official trailer for the movie, which had its Washington premiere last night as part of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Legislative Conference, was made available today. The movie will hit theaters on December 2 and Apple TV+ on December 9.
“Will Smith is a great guy,” Fuqua said to Deadline. “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. 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.”
Smith, who had previously declined the main role in Django Unchained, gave an explanation for his decision, saying that he preferred to “depict Black excellence” rather than appear in a movie about slavery.
“This was one that was about love and the power of Black love,” he said of Emancipation. “And that was something that I could rock with. We were going to make a story about how Black love makes us invincible.”
Smith apologized for his actions at the Oscars in a video that he uploaded in July, claiming he was “deeply remorseful.” Later, Rock called it a “hostage video” and rejected it.
According to a survey, Smith’s popularity “very significantly and precipitously declined” as a result of the event. For ten years, the actor is not permitted to attend any Academy-related events.
The actor will be up against current favorites for the award, such as Colin Farrell for The Banshees of Inisherin and Brendan Fraser for The Whale. For the family drama Coda, Apple took home the best picture Oscar the previous year.