The slave drama Emancipation was thought to be an Oscar vehicle for Will Smith — that is, until that infamous Academy Awards slap of Chris Rock, and the subsequent decade-long Academy ban for the King Richard Oscar winner.
In a chat with Entertainment Weekly, Smith acknowledged that his actions could hurt the reaction to Emancipation.
Will says, “The only discomfort my heart has around that is that so many people have done spectacular work on this film. My hope is that my team isn’t penalized at all for my actions.”
While praising the “spectacular” work of director Antoine Fuqua, cinematographer Robert Richardson and co-stars Ben Foster and Charmaine Bingwa, Will adds, “I definitely lose a couple winks of sleep every night thinking that I could have potentially penalized my team, but I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that everyone gets seen in the light that they deserve.”
The drama was inspired by the haunting image of “Whipped Peter,” a slave who escaped the Deep South, only to return and fight for the freedom of his friends and family as a soldier in the Union Army.
Smith also adds, “I had seen the image of Whipped Peter as a child, but as his story started to come into focus, I was moved in all of the most beautiful ways. When you look at the brutality that he suffered, and then realizing that through that he was able to sustain faith, gratitude, and love in the face of those kinds of atrocities — I knew that I wanted to learn from Peter.”
Emancipation debuts in U.S. theaters on Dec. 2 and hits Apple TV+ a week later on Dec. 9.
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