The speech marked the Oscar winner’s first in-person acceptance at an awards show since he slapped Chris Rock onstage at the 2022 Academy Awards
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 Academy Awards.
He accepted the award alongside his Emancipation director Antoine Fuqua, who began the acceptance speech by explaining the significance of the award. “The Beacon Award is intended to highlight films that are tackling challenging subjects with insight, enlightening, as well as engaging the audience,” he said. “It was our hope that Emancipation would be able to bring Peter’s triumphant story and unwavering faith and his deep love for his family to life.” The director went on to thank Apple, AAFCA and the film’s cast and crew before handing over the mic to Smith.
“Emancipation was the most individual difficult film of my entire career,” said the actor as he began his part of the speech. “It’s really difficult to transport a modern mind to that time period. It’s difficult to imagine that, that level of inhumanity.”
He went on to recount his experience filming the AppleTV+ movie, in which he plays Peter, an enslaved man 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 slavery era.
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