Will Smith knows fans might be hesitant to watch his first movie since slapping Chris Rock at the Academy Awards.
“I totally understand that,” he told Fox 5 in Washington, D.C., in an interview posted to YouTube on November 28. “If someone isn’t ready, I will fully respect that and allow them to be unready.”
Smith’s new movie “Emancipation” opens in theaters Dec. 9, and his “deep concern” is that his cast will get a low turnout for what he’s done.
“My deepest concern is my team,” he told the outlet. “The people on this team have done some of the best work in their entire careers. I hope my actions don’t punish my team. At this point, that’s what I work for. That’s what I hope. I hope the material, the strength of the film, the timing of the story – I hope the goodness What can be done will open people’s hearts, at the very least, to see, learn about, and support the amazing artists in and around this movie.”
Smith, 54, slapped Rock, 57, while the comedian was presenting an award at the Academy Awards on March 27. Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, going bald due to hair loss. The audience laughed, but Smith honed the stage with deliberate steps, slapping Rock across the face and returning to his seat using the same measured steps.
The aftermath of the incident included several apologies from Smith and more reactions on social media.
Smith issued his first public apology to Rock the day after the slap amid mounting backlash. Writing on Instagram, in part, Smith said, “I would like to publicly apologize to you Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I feel embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. Violence has no place in the world of love and kindness.”
A week later, Smith took more responsibility for his actions in a statement released on April 1 that also included his resignation from membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. At the time, the organization was investigating the incident and exploring possible disciplinary action. On April 8, she issued a 10-year suspension from all organization events.
“My actions at the 94th Academy Awards were shocking, painful and unforgivable,” Smith wrote. “The list of people I’ve hurt is long and includes Chris and his family, many of my dearest friends and loved ones, and all the people present and global fans at home.”
“I got a little hazy at this point,” Smith said in part. “It’s all murky. I reached out to Chris and the message that comes back is he’s not ready to talk and when he is, he’ll reach out to you. So I’m going to say to you, Chris, I apologize to you. My behavior was unacceptable and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk.”
Rock has performed stand-up routines since the accident. He addressed the controversy firsthand on July 24 during his show at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey.
“Anyone who says the words hurt hasn’t been punched in the face,” Rock said, later adding, “I’m not a victim. Yeah, that one — a wound, um —. But I got rid of that and went to work the next day. I don’t go to Hospital for a paper cut.
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