Will Smith to enter 2023 Oscar race – just months after Chris Rock slap

Entertainment

Will Smith’s first big film project since slapping comedian Chris Rock live on stage at the 94th Academy Awards will be released later this year.

Emancipation received its first screening on Sunday in Washington as part of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Legislative Conference.

The movie had originally been slated for release earlier this year, but was pushed back after Smith’s “unprecedented behaviour” at the biggest awards in the showbiz calendar.

It will be released in select cinemas on 2 December, before coming to Apple TV + a week later, and so will be eligible for the 2023 Oscars race.

Emancipation tells the true story of “Whipped Peter,” who joined the Union Army in the 1860s after escaping from slavery in Louisiana.

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Will Smith apologises to Chris Rock for slap

Shocking photos taken during his army medical examination – showing his bare back heavily mutilated from whipping – were widely shared as part of the abolitionist movement at the time and went on to help in the fight against slavery.

The film is produced by Smith, who also plays the lead role of Peter.

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In March, Smith was widely condemned for hitting Rock after the comedian made a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

Rock had referred to Pinkett Smith’s shortly shaved hair, comparing her to GI Jane. Pinkett Smith has been vocal about her battle with the autoimmune disease alopecia, which causes hair loss.

The same night, Smith went on to win his first Oscar for his role in King Richard, a biopic about the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams.

Smith was banned from all Academy events for ten years.

Despite apologising to the Academy on the night of the slap, it took Smith three months to apologise to Rock by way of a five-minute video released on Instagram.

Rock later dismissed it as a “hostage video”.

A teaser trailer for Emancipation released by Apple TV+ shows Smith wading through Louisiana swamps as the lead character, Peter, battles to escape slavery.

The film is directed by Training Day filmmaker Antoine Fuqua, and also stars Ben Foster and Charmaine Bingwa.

Last year, Apple become the first streaming service to win best picture at the Oscars, with Coda.

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