Emancipation Director Antoine Fuqua Reacts To Fans Associating The Movie With Will Smith’s Slap

Will Smith in Emancipation
(Image credit: Apple)

The last time we saw Will Smith in a cinematic setting was in King Richard, where he played Richard Williams, father of tennis icons Venus and Serena Williams. That role netted Smith the Academy Award for Best Actor earlier this year, but it was at that same awards ceremony where the actor scored more attention for slapping Chris Rock onstage after the comedian made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s appearance. Smith is now out promoting his next movie, Emancipation, and its director, Antoine Fuqua, has reacted to the fans who are associating Emancipation with the Oscars slap.

There’s a little under a month to go until Apple TV+ subscribers can stream Emancipation, but the publicity campaign for the movie is in full swing. This includes Will Smith and Antoine Fuqua chatting with Vanity Fair, and while Smith declined to answer a question about his Oscars incident, Fuqua said the following to the outlet:

The film to me is bigger than that moment. Four hundred years of slavery is bigger than one moment. My hope is that people will see it that way and watch the movie and be swept away with the great performance by Will and all the real hard work that the whole crew did.

Emancipation marks Will Smith and Antoine Fuqua’s first collaboration, with the latter having helmed movies like Training Day, The Equalizer and Southpaw. The public learned in June 2020 that these two would team on Emancipation, but Smith’s image got quite the shakeup when people all over the world watched him slap Chris Rock on live TV. As far as Fuqua is concerned though, the Oscars moment shouldn’t have any bear on how people received Emancipation, both with regard to its subject matter and the hard work poured into the movie itself.

Antonine Fuqua’s comment arrives shortly after Will Smith’s Wild Wild West costar Bai Ling said that the actor deserves forgiveness for what he did, as well as Smith revealing that Floyd Mayweather called him for 10 days straight after the slap. For his part, Smith formally apologized to Chris Rock back in late July, but as of the following month, Rock reportedly had no interest in speaking with Smith. Even with the next round of Oscars festivities slowly approaching, it doesn’t seem like this topic will be dying down anytime soon (it was even made into a Halloween costume), but Antoine Fuqua is hoping this doesn’t impact how Emancipation is viewed/received by the masses.

Emancipation, which is based on a true story, sees Will Smith playing an enslaved man named Peter who escapes captivity, outwits cold-blooded hunters on his way to the North and then joins the Union Army. Smith is joined by Ben Foster, Steven Ogg, Charmaine Bingwa, Gilbert Our, Mustafa Shakir and Grant Harvey, among others. Check back with CinemaBlend for our review of the movie and more coverage on what’s going on with Smith professionally and personally

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.