Will Smith makes his first awards appearance since the Oscars slap – The Hollywood Reporter

Will Smith returned to the awards season circuit on Wednesday to accept the Beacon Award at the African American Film Critics Association Awards. The speech marked the Oscar winner’s first in-person acceptance at an awards show since he slapped Chris Rock onstage at the 2022 Oscars.

He accepted the award alongside his Emancipation director Antoine Fuqua, who opened the acceptance speech by explaining the significance of the award. “The Beacon Award is intended to shine a light on films that tackle difficult subjects with insight, enlightening and engaging audiences,” he said. “It was our hope that Emancipation, that he would be able to bring to life Peter’s triumphant story, his unwavering faith and his deep love for his family. The director then thanked Apple, AAFCA and the film’s cast and crew before handing the microphone over to Smith.

Emancipation was the hardest movie of my entire career,” the actor began in his part of the speech. “It’s really hard to convey a modern spirit in this era. It’s hard to imagine that, that level of inhumanity.

He then recounted his experience filming the AppleTV+ movie, in which he plays Peter, a slave who manifests his own freedom. Smith then recalled being spontaneously spat on by a white co-star while filming a tense scene, and how that impacted his understanding of the injustice of the era of slavery.

“It was day two of shooting and 110 degrees,” he said. “I was in a scene with one of the white actors, and we had our lines, and the actor decided to improvise. So, we do the scene. I did my line. He did his line . And then he improvised and spat in the middle of my chest. If I had pearls, I would definitely have hung them. I wanted to say “Antoineeeeee”, but I stopped and realized that Peter wouldn’t have hung them. could call the director.

He continued, “I sat there, and took a deep breath, and we took two, and the actor felt the ad-lib went well. So we take two. I make my line. He makes his line and spits again in the middle of my chest. I just held on in that moment, and there was a part – it’s making me cry right now – there was a part of me that was grateful that I could Really to understand. And then, in the distance, I hear a voice, and Antoine says: ‘Hey, we’re going to do a take without spitting.’ And at that moment, I knew that God was real.

Smith also thanked the AAFCA and everyone in the room for all they do. He then took a moment to direct his appreciation to Apple.

“I want to thank Apple because the budget was a thing,” he said. “And then the budget was something else. And then the budget was something else. And Apple never flinched. This was the first time I had heard from a studio that the story was more important than the cost of making it, so we added a few extra elements that we wanted. They make iPhones. They can do it.

Before taking the stage, Smith was swarmed by cameras marking his first public appearance this awards season. He was conspicuously absent from the NAACP Image Awards, where he won Best Actor for his portrayal of Peter. He then posted a thank you on his Instagram, in which he shouted out to the organization for “the work you do all year” and shared how much it meant to him to be recognized by them in this way. .

In November, the film premiered in Westwood and was momentarily caught in the crossfire of controversy, when a producer posed with the original “Scourged Back” photograph that inspired the script.

Christy Piña contributed to this story.

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