It’s been a year of highs and lows for Will Smith following the incident with Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars.
Now that Will’s new slave drama, Emancipation, is in theaters, the movie’s director 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 was going to affect the movie, Fuqua responded, “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.”
As a Black man who is tired of seeing Black trauma popularized in media, I’m hesitant that Emancipation is just another slave movie 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 out looking for a slave movie; I never saw Emancipation as a slave movie. I wrote ‘sacred motivation’ on the top of my script, because it was something more spiritual for me and for Will. It was a story about triumph.”
He claims that “it was always about trying to find a way to be inspiring [and] showing people that you can make it through anything.”
That’s why it was never a conversation to cancel the movie. Apple and the producers had discussions leading up to the film’s release, but they never included stopping production.
“It was always a full conversation with Apple. They were very sensitive to myself, to Will, to all the people who worked on the movie. There was never a conversation with me and Apple or my producers, Todd Black and Jon Mone or Heather Washington, about the movie not coming out,” Fuqua said. “It was more about, ‘We’re assessing everything. We’re seeing what people are saying.'”
He said “they were very careful” about the entire situation. And after they saw the final cut of the film, “some people and their reactions were really positive, and we discussed it along the way.”
“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. So I think Apple considered all those things, and we discussed a lot of those 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.”
Fuqua continued his unwavering support for Will, saying, “I was with Will for two years and I haven’t met a nicer human being. I’m being honest about it. He was kind to everyone on the set.”
“So, I saw a different person than that one moment in time, and so my reaction was that particular moment is very foreign to me when it comes to Will Smith. I have nothing but amazing things to say about Will Smith, really genuinely. You can ask anybody that worked on the movie, they’ll tell you the same. 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 continued.
Fuqua thinks that it’s important we find a way to move forward. “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. I think it would be an incredible statement.”
Is all this support around Will Smith and Emancipation enough for us to move FROM EVERYTHING despite the troubling history? Let me know in the comments.