It will take a long time for movie fans to forget that Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards. Smith, Rock and the former’s wife, Sure Pinkett Smith, has since commented on the shocking moment. Now, another person close to Smith has spoken out about what he believes is the reason behind the incident.
Antoine Fuqua directed Smith in the upcoming film Liberationand he explained in a new interview with Vanity Fair that he believes what Smith endured during the recording may have played a role in the bang. He also defended Smith’s character, saying he “saw a different person” during their work together than he did on the Oscars stage. Read on to learn more about why Fuqua thinks Liberation may have led to Smith’s actions that night.
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Fuqua believes the trauma of the film affected Smith.
Liberation is inspired by the story of an enslaved man known as Whipped Peter and his escape to freedom. Smith plays the lead character and is also a producer of the film. It ended two months before the Oscars, and Fuqua believes the traumatic nature of the story combined with the stressful set may have affected Smith’s mindset.
“The movie was supposed to end in October, but we didn’t finish that movie until January because of a hurricane, the heat, covid, a tornado and 12 other things. It was just crazy, really,” Fuqua shared Vanity Fair. “It’s very hard to release a character who’s been brutalized and called the N-word every day — constantly, every day — and still be the nicest person in the world. I know that.”
The Training day director continued, “So no apologies to anyone or anything, but I can say he’s a good man and I hope that people can forgive him and that we can move on. I hope Chris and Will find a way to sit together publicly, privately, whatever, and make amends. I think that would be an incredible statement.”
He called Smith one of the nicest people he’s ever met.
Fuqua explained that he was struck by how kind Smith was when they worked together.
“[I]It didn’t feel real to me at all because I was with Will for two years and I haven’t met a nicer person,” Fuqua said of finding out about the bang. “I’m honest about it. He was kind to everyone on set. Will was going around hugging and shaking hands – we had 300 or so extras and military. Marines. We had to stop Will from doing that because of COVID. He is funny. He is funny. We had certain extras who were the dead bodies in the graves, and he would go and give them money for laying there in that 100-plus degree heat.”
Of the Oscar incident, he said he “saw a different person than that one moment, and so my reaction was that that particular moment is very foreign to me when it comes to Will Smith.” He added that he also knows Rock and called him “a good guy too.”
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Smith has said that the film was “exhausting”.
Smith did not comment on the Oscar incident in his own interview with Vanity Fairbut he had an answer when the journalist suggested that it “couldn’t have been easy to shake off” playing his Liberation character.
“Getting into the character of Peter was grueling; physically, emotionally and mentally in every way,” Smith said. “Not just for me, but for every single person who worked on the film. We had therapists and spiritual teachers on set. We had a pastor. The daily reminder of the merciless treatment of a race of people was punishing our spirit.”
He has also apologized to Rock.
At the Academy Awards on March 27, Smith took to the stage and slammed host Rock after the comedian joked about Pinkett Smith’s shaved head. (Pinkett Smith shaved her head because of her alopecia diagnosis, about which she has been outspoken.)
The day after the awards ceremony, Smith apologized to Rock in a statement posted on Instagram. He apologized again in a five-minute YouTube video shared in July. As for Rock, he has referenced the situation in his stand-up comedy shows. During one show, he said, “Anyone who says words hurt has never been punched in the face.”