For the past week, there’s been a lot of rumor-mongering about Will Smith and the film Emancipation. Will spoke about Emancipation a lot as he promoted King Richard and did the awards season blitz late last year and early this year. Emancipation, based on the true story of a former slave-turned-Union soldier known as Whipped Peter, completed production in early 2022, and it was and is Will’s big passion project. He got Apple to spend $120 million on the production and they were all geared up to launch a huge Oscar campaign for the film and for Smith. Then Will slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars. Now no one is 100% sure what’s going to happen with Emancipation.
Apple has a Will Smith problem. Mr. Smith is the star of “Emancipation,” a film set during the Civil War era that Apple envisioned as a surefire Oscar contender when it wrapped filming earlier this year. But that was before Mr. Smith strode onto the stage at the Academy Awards in March and slapped the comedian Chris Rock, who had made a joke about Mr. Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
Now Apple finds itself left with a $120 million unreleased awards-style movie featuring a star no longer welcome at the biggest award show of them all, and a big question: Can the film, even if it succeeds artistically, overcome the baggage that now accompanies Mr. Smith?
The sensitivity of the situation is apparent. According to three people involved with the film who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the company’s planning, there have been discussions inside Apple to release “Emancipation” by the end of the year, which would make it eligible for awards consideration. Variety reported in May, however, that the film’s release would be pushed into 2023. When asked for this article how and when it planned to release “Emancipation,” Apple declined to comment on that or anything else about the film.
The rest of that Times piece featured quotes from a lot of white people clutching their pearls at how no one will ever be able to see Will Smith the same way after he… slapped a grown man for disrespecting his wife for the millionth time. I mean, I get that there are still conversations about this and obviously, there’s no “right answer” for “what do we do about Will Smith’s other films?” At first, I thought they should just release the film as they originally planned to, late in the year, in time for the 2023 awards season and just come what may, even with Will being banned from the Oscars. But considering all of the pearl-clutching and angst, maybe Apple should let one Oscar telecast go by before releasing the film.
This entertainment journalist says that it’s definitely coming out in December though. Maybe Apple just wants Emancipation off its plate.
BREAKING: Apple expected to release the Will Smith movie EMANCIPATION in early December.
— Jeff Sneider (@TheInSneider) September 20, 2022
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