Will Smith’s press tour for Emancipation continued Wednesday night as the actor made his first red carpet appearance after the 2022 Oscars.
Smith arrived at the Regency Village Theater in Westwood with his family – wife Jada Pinkett Smith and children Trey, Willow and Jaden – by his side. When photographers asked him to look this way and that, Smith was cheerful and more than ready to face a crowd of reporters for the first time since the aftermath of Chris Rock’s slap at the Oscars.
Smith has already had a number of interviews, including his trip to Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show and a virtual interview with Fox 5 DC’s Kevin McCarthy, in which he directly addressed his actions at the Oscars and public perception since then. “That was a horrible night, as you can imagine,” he told Noah. “There are many nuances and complexities. But at the end of the day I just – I lost it, you know? That’s not who I want to be.” Smith told McCarthy that he would “respect” audiences’ decision not to see this film if they felt it was too early: “I totally understand that if … if someone is not ready, I would absolutely respect that and give them the space to be ready … My deepest hope is that my actions will not punish my team.”
Smith stars in “Emancipation” as Peter, an enslaved man who made history thanks to an 1863 photograph known as “The Scourged Back” showing the keloid scars from a lifetime of flogging. The images, taken during a Union Army medical inquest and published in Harper’s Weekly, are credited with contributing to public resistance to slavery, and directed by Antoine Fuqua, Emancipation aims to bring more humanity to its story by illustrating Peter’s harrowing escape through the Louisiana swamps to reach freedom and his struggle to return to his family.
Prosthetic scars were placed on Smith’s back to recreate this image, and the actor described them on the carpet as “the illustration of the cruelty that people can commit against one another.”
“When you see those scars on Peter’s back, it’s like, ‘What? How could you? How could you even bring yourself to do that to another human being?’” Smith said diversity. “It’s not a caning. That’s lifelong scar tissue on his back,” Smith said. “I think if I have to watch this, if I have to experience it for an audience, I hope that it will release a compassion in the hearts of the viewers that will help us avert what may be similar tragedies of the past in the present.” “
Explaining how the experience directly impacted him, Smith added, “It certainly released a compassion and a gratitude that I get to live in this time. And a gratitude for the people who went before me and before us to take the beating so that I can stand here today.”
Smith was joined at the premiere by a large majority of that team, including his co-stars Ben Foster and Charmaine Bingwa, who introduced the premiere screening with Smith.
“This project was an absolute beast of a biblical film,” Smith told the crowd. “First and foremost, I would like to thank my spectacular cast. … The work that Charmaine and Ben did is not only spectacular in the film, but they transformed me as an actor and uplifted me as a person in the time we spent together.”
Director Antoine Fuqua was unable to attend the premiere, instead beaming from Italy where he is filming The Equalizer 3 with Denzel Washington. Fuqua explained what motivated him during the challenging shoot — which endured a relocation from Georgia to Louisiana following the state’s election-bust controversy, a shutdown due to Hurricane Ida, COVID, and more.
“I knew we were going to need everything we had and then some to make it,” Fuqua told the crowd. “There was something spiritual about the film that moved me just reading it sideways – about love, about faith, about family, about freedom. It just had to be done.”
After winning the Best Actor Oscar for King Richard last year, Smith’s name is back in the Oscars conversation as Emancipation has sparked Oscar buzz — Variety Senior Awards Editor Clayton Davis wrote that the “penetrating honesty and meticulous craftsmanship of the film are the best culminations of Fuqua’s long career.” But if the film is nominated, Smith, who is also the project’s producer, could not attend the ceremony.
“It’s going to be bittersweet, but I know he’s definitely going to be with us,” said producer Jon Mone, who is also co-president of Smith’s Westbrook Studios diversity about this prospect. “He’s a big reason this movie was made and he’s a big reason this movie will do well if it does well.”
Mone added, “Whether he’s there in person or not, he’s going to be an integral part of this film. … We are a family and where one of us goes, we all go.”
In addition to the Smith family, several of the Oscar winner’s friends had come to support him at the premiere, including Tiffany Haddish, Draymond Green and filmmaker Deon Taylor, who was one of the first to see “Emancipation” during a private screening hosted by Smith October.
Of supporting Smith during this tumultuous year, Taylor noted, “We all fall. This is a crazy time in life where for some reason people feel like if you fall you shouldn’t get up. As a brother, we should pick this man up and make sure we dust him off.”
Emancipation premieres in select theaters on Friday and streams worldwide on Apple TV+ on December 9th.
https://variety.com/2022/film/events/will-smith-walks-first-red-carpet-post-oscars-emancipation-1235446918/ Will Smith Wins First Post-Oscar On The Red Carpet For ‘Emancipation’