Will Smith says his “deepest hope” is that his infamous Oscars slap does not have an effect on the team behind his new film Emancipation in the upcoming awards season.
The Hollywood actor said he understood if people were “not ready” to have him make a comeback at the 2023 awards circuit, but that the film’s production team should not be “penalised”.
During the annual awards show in March of this year, Smith stormed the stage and slapped Chris Rock after comments the comedian made about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith.
Moments later he returned to the stage after winning the best actor Oscar for his role in the biopic King Richard, about the father of Venus and Serena Williams.
Smith later apologised to Rock and the Academy for the incident, but was banned from attending any Academy events or progammes for 10 years.
Emancipation marks the actor’s first big-screen project since the incident, and he discussed the potential effects of the controversy in a recent interview with Washington DC’s Fox affiliate, Fox 5.
Asked what he would say to those who thought it was “too soon” for him to be making a comeback, he replied: “You know, I completely understand that if you know someone is not ready.
“I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready.
“My deepest concern is my team.”
“The people on this team have done some of the best work their entire careers, and my deepest hope is that my actions don’t penalise my team.”
Smith added that he hoped that “the material power of the film” as well as “the timeliness of the story” would “open people’s hearts” and allow the hard work done on the film to be appreciated.
Emancipation is based on the true story of the enslaved man “whipped Peter” who escaped from a Louisiana plantation in the 1860s after he was nearly whipped to death.
When photographs of his bare back, heavily scourged from the overseer’s whippings, were published worldwide in 1863 the abolitionist movement was provided with proof of the cruelty of American slavery.
The film premieres in cinemas on December 2 and will appear on the streaming service Apple TV+ on December 9.
The 2023 Oscars are scheduled to be held on Sunday March 12.