In March 2022, Will Smith had the imprudence to slap comedian Chris Rock right on stage at the Oscars, jeopardizing his project with Apple and restricted himself from attending any Academy-related events, including the Oscar telecast, for the next decade.
Apple was terribly worried about its reputational risks and spent a long time deciding the fate of the film Emancipation, starring Smith. Initially, the possibility of postponing the release of the picture to 2023 was considered. But Apple also wanted to compete for the Oscar, counting on a nomination, so the company decided that the premiere of the film will take place at the end of 2022, and later it will be released on its streaming service Apple TV+.
However, Apple still found a way to minimize the negative for itself by abandoning its bid for a Will Smith biopic.
Antoine Fuqua’s film Emancipation is based on a real story that was published in 1863 by Harper’s Weekly magazine. Among a series of photographs of black slaves there was one with disfiguring scars on the back from regular beatings.
The action of the film takes place during the Civil War, the script is based not only on the general motives of the story of a runaway slave, but also on his diaries. When the real Peter reached the Union Army, escaping from hunters who were chasing him through the swamps of Louisiana, local medics took pictures of his back – it was mutilated by the blows of the whip with which he was beaten by former slave owners. The image became a symbol of the brutal treatment of the black population.
There is no doubt that the film will receive an Oscar nomination and maybe even a statuette itself, but this celebration will surely take place without the presence of Will Smith.