It’s been a year of ups and downs for Will Smith following the Chris Rock incident at the 2022 Oscars.
Now that Will’s new slave drama, emancipationis in cinemas, the director of the film Antoine Fuqua (training day, Southpaw) spoke to Vanity Fair to defend the film and its star.
When asked if the slap at the 2022 Oscars would affect the film, Fuqua replied, “The film is bigger to me than this moment. Four hundred years of slavery is greater than a moment. I hope people take that view and watch the film and get carried away by the amazing performance by Will and all the really hard work that the whole crew has put in.”
As a black man tired of black trauma becoming popular in the media, I hesitate emancipation is just another slave film to add to the long list of reminders of our tragic American history.
But Fuqua is firm in his stance that this isn’t like other “slave movies.” “As a filmmaker, I wasn’t looking for a slave film that I’ve never seen emancipation as a slave film. I wrote “Sacred Motivation” at the top of my script because it was something more spiritual to me and Will. It was a story of triumph.”
He claims that “it was always about finding a way to be inspirational [and] to show people that you can get through anything.”
That’s why there was never any talk of canceling the film. Apple and the producers had talks leading up to the film’s release, but they never included halting production.
“It was always an in-depth conversation with Apple. They were very sensitive to me, Will and all the people who worked on the film. There was never a conversation with me and Apple or my producers, Todd Black and Jon Mone or Heather Washington, that the film wasn’t going to come out,” Fuqua said. “It was more like, ‘We evaluate everything. We see what people say.'”
He said “they were very cautious” about the whole situation. And after seeing the film’s final cut, “some people and their reactions were really positive, and we talked about it.”
“My conversation was always: ‘Isn’t 400 years of slavery, brutality, more important than a bad moment?’ We’ve been in Hollywood and some really ugly things have happened and we’ve seen a lot of people get awards doing some really nasty things and I think Apple has considered all of those things and we’ve got a lot discussed these things. Then a decision was made by the people who run sales and the money at Apple – and I’m grateful, I’m really grateful.”
Fuqua continued his unwavering support for Will, saying, “I’ve been with Will for two years and I’ve never met a nicer person. I’m honest. He was nice to everyone on set.”
“So I saw a different person than that one moment, and my reaction was, that particular moment is very alien to me when it comes to Will Smith. I have nothing but amazing things to say about Will Smith, honestly. You can ask anyone who worked on the film, they will tell you the same thing. The nicest person I’ve ever met in my life. Chris Rock – I know Chris – Chris is a good guy too. I’ve spent time with Chris and I think it’s an unfortunate event and I hope we can move forward and get over it,” he continued.
Fuqua thinks it’s important that we find a way to move forward. “So no excuses for anyone or anything but I can say he’s a good man and I hope people can forgive him and that we can move forward. I hope Chris and Will find a way to sit together in public, private or whatever. and make amends. I think it would be an incredible statement.”
Is all this support around Will Smith and emancipation enough for us to walk away from it all despite the disturbing story? Let me know in the comments.