Antoine Fuqua on Whether Will Smith's Slap Impacted Plans to Release Slavery Drama 'Emancipation'

Director Antoine Fuqua spoke about the upcoming historical film 'Emancipation' starring Will Smith and whether his infamous Oscars slap impacted the release.

This is a photo of Antoine Fuqua.


This is a photo of Antoine Fuqua.

Before 2022 ends, Will Smith’s slavery drama Emancipation is hitting select cinemas and Apple TV+.

Despite the controversy surrounding Smith after slapping Chris Rock at the Academy Awards in March, director Antoine Fuqua is pushing forward with the release of Emancipation.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Fuqua shared his thoughts behind still releasing the movie this year, saying there was “never a conversation” with Apple or his producers about a delay.

“It was more about, ‘We’re assessing everything. We’re seeing what people are saying.’ They were very careful about it,” said the director whose credits include The Equalizer and Training Day. “Then we showed the film to some people and their reactions were really positive, and we discussed it along the way. Of course I wanted people to see the film.”

He continued, “My conversation was always, ‘Isn’t 400 years of slavery, of brutality, more important than one bad moment?’ We were in Hollywood, and there’s been some really ugly things that have taken place, and we’ve seen a lot of people get awards that have done some really nasty things. ... Then a decision was made by the people in charge of distribution and the money at Apple—and I’m grateful, I’m really grateful.”

Director Antoine Fuqua says Will Smith's incident with Chris Rock at the Oscars was "very foreign" to him, citing the long production of 'Emancipation' as a possible source of stress.

Still, Fuqua has "nothing but amazing things" to say about Smith.


— VANITY FAIR (@VanityFair) November 15, 2022

Fuqua was also asked about his reaction to the slap, knowing the star of his movie was involved. “I have nothing but amazing things to say about Will Smith, really genuinely. ... 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 past it,” he said.

The 56-year-old went on to say Emancipation’s filming lasted three months longer than expected and impacted Smith. “It’s really hard to release a character who’s been brutalized and called the N-word every day—constantly, every day—and still be the nicest person in the world. ... So no excuses for anyone or anything, but I can say that he’s a good man and I hope that people can forgive him and that we can move forward. I hope Chris and Will find a way to sit together publicly, privately, whatever, and make amends.”

For more of Vanity Fair’s extensive piece that includes interviews with Smith, Ben Foster, and Charmaine Bingwa, head hereEmancipation is scheduled to be released in certain theaters on Dec. 2, before its Apple TV+ streaming release on Dec. 9.

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