"Emancipation" Director Antoine Fuqua Shared His Conversation With Producers About Releasing The Will Smith Movie After The Oscars Incident

It's been a year of highs and lows for Will Smith following the incident with Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars.

will crying holding his award
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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.

Emancipation was released in select theaters on Dec. 2 and will be available for streaming on Apple TV+ the following week.

Emancipation was released in select theaters on Dec. 2 and will be available for streaming on Apple TV+ the following week.


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.”

closuep of Antoine Fuqua
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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.

will and his costars in the movie siting in a house

In the words of Vanity Fair, Will stars in the movie as Peter, "a man who escapes the shackles of slavery through the treacherous swamps of Louisiana. It’s inspired by the frankly inconceivable trials and tribulations of an escaped slave best known to history as 'Whipped Peter.'" (Warning: graphic photo)

Quantrall Colbert / © Apple TV+ / Courtesy Everett Collection

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."

closeup of will in the movie
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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."

will in the film wlking through a river
Quantrall Colbert / © Apple TV+ / Courtesy Everett Collection

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.

will holding up his award
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"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.'"

closeup of will and his costars
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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."

closeup of will
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"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."

drawing of an enslaved person and a person pointing a gun at them
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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."

closeup of Antoine Fuqua
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"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.

Antoine and will
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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."

Antoine and will at the movie premiere
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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.