Watch Will Smith Give His First Post-Slap Acceptance Speech

Will Smith accepting his Oscar at the 2022 Academy Awards
(Image credit: ABC)

It’s been just about one year since Will Smith won the Academy Award for Best Actor, but made headlines for something very different. The slap heard around the world, when Smith hit Chris Rock on the Oscars stage is remaining a topic of conversation again as we approached this year’s Academy Awards event.  Smith himself is back on an awards show stage having received the Beacon Award from the African American Film Critics Association.

No mention of controversy took place when Smith took the stage for the first time since the Oscars. The focus was his work on the Apple TV+ film Emancipation. In his speech, captured by Variety, Smith talked about the difficulties both physical and emotional in playing a slave and thanked those who made the movie and gave him this award. Check out Smith’s speech below.

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Antoine Fuqua’s Emancipation stars Smith as a slave who escapes captivity and attempts to make his way to freedom. The film’s release was initially left in limbo following the Oscars slap. Several projects Will Smith had been working on were either canceled or delayed following the events on the Oscars stage. And while not all of them could be directly tied to the slap since public sentiment was largely against the actor it was believed many films wanted to get as much distance from that as possible.

Emancipation was one of the films with a release date in limbo, but it was eventually released in December 2022. While the movie had been seen as a potential Oscar contender before release, it received middle-of-the-road reviews and has been largely overlooked this Awards Season. 

In his Beacon Award acceptance speech, Smith talked about the experience of filming Emancipation, calling it the most difficult film of his entire career for him personally. He also thanked Apple for apparently being more than willing to spend a significant amount of money on the project. Smith said…

I want to thank Gil and AAFCA. I want to thank all of you in this room for doing what you do, for keeping our stories alive. I want to thank Apple, because the budget was one thing. And then the budget was another thing. And then the budget was another thing. And Apple never flinched. It was the first time I had heard from a studio ‘The story was more important than how much it costs to get it done’… They make iPhones. They can do it.

Between Chris Rock’s upcoming Netflix special, and the March 12 Oscar ceremony itself, it seems likely we’ll be hearing a lot about the infamous Oscar slap again very soon. However, on this night the focus for Will Smith was the movies.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.