Antoine Fuqua Defends Releasing Film With Will Smith Post-Oscars Slap

Director Antoine Fuqua’s Emancipation is set to hit theaters on Dec. 2 and Apple TV+ on Dec. 9.

The film stars Will Smith and is the actor’s first film release in the wake of his now-infamous Oscars slap assault against Chris Rock. With Fuqua being the first to release a film of Smith’s following the controversial moment, the filmmaker is forced to address speculation about working with the Academy Award-winning actor.

The film is based on the real events of an escaped slave who joined the Union Army during the Civil War. Following the war, the man’s whip-scarred back was photographed and became the image used for anti-slavery messages.

Speaking with Vanity Fair, Fuqua says despite Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Academy Awards in March, Apple “never stopped talking about releasing the film” as there was never any talk “about the movie not coming out.”

Fuqua calls the film his “strongest piece of work” and credits Apple for being “very careful” with monitoring the timeline of when the film would release, considering all the negative press Smith has received following the Oscars slap attack.

“Isn’t 400 years of slavery, of brutality, more important than one bad moment?” Fuqua asked.

The Training Day director also pointed out that, in Hollywood, there have been “some really ugly things that have taken place” and that “we’ve seen a lot of people get awards that have done some really nasty things.”

Fuqua enjoyed working with Smith, whom he describes as the “nicest person I’ve ever met in my life.” He also believes everyone who worked on Emancipation will “tell you the same.”

The Equalizer filmmaker personally knows Chris Rock and thinks he’s also “a good guy.” While he notes the Oscars slap was “an unfortunate event,” he hopes that “we can move forward and get past it.”