Will Smith may have finally broken his silence months after the slap heard around the world, but questions remain as to how significantly the Oscars fiasco will affect the long-term career prospects of one of the modern era’s biggest and most popular stars.
The only project the actor has on the horizon is Apple’s blockbuster historical thriller Emancipation, which comes armed with a $100 million budget and no sign of a concrete release date. In a perfect world, an A-lister of Smith’s magnitude coming off the back of a Best Actor win and headlining another awards-baiting prestige film sounds nailed-on to generate plenty of buzz.
Instead, The New York Times has questioned how the studio are supposed to promote and market Smith’s first major role since he attacked Chris Rock onstage in front of millions of viewers around the world, with former executive editor of The Hollywood Reporter Stephen Galloway going so far as to call it a “lose-lose situation”.
“If they shelve the movie, does that tarnish Apple’s reputation? If they release it, does it tarnish their reputation? Hollywood likes a win-win situation. This one is lose-lose.”
Former president of Fox Searchlight Stephen Gilula was even more forthcoming on Emancipation‘s prospects, admitting the mere presence of Smith front and center has put the movie in an unfortunate position, with his indiscretions potentially already casting a shadow over how the Academy feels about the end product.
“Regardless of the quality of the movie, all of the press, all the reviewers, all of the feature writers, all the awards prognosticators are going to be looking at it and talking about the slap. There’s a very high risk that the film will not get judged on its pure merit. It puts it into a very untenable context.”
As it stands, Emancipation is scheduled to release at some point next year, but that’s about as solid as Apple has been willing to get. When the studio does eventually commit to a date, though, you can bet that it’s going to get placed under immense scrutiny that has nothing to do with the narrative at all.