Will Smith took the stage at the African American Film Critics Association Awards, where he and Emancipation director Antoine Fuqua accepted the organization’s Beacon Award. It marked Smith’s first in-person speech at an awards ceremony since the 2022 Oscars, where he slapped Chris Rock onstage.
“Emancipation was the individual most difficult film of my entire career. It was all outdoors, that is true,” Smith joked, drawing laughs from the crowd, according to Variety.
“It was the second day of shooting and 110 degrees…I was in a scene with one of the white actors. The actor decided to ad-lib. So we’re doing the scene. I did my line. He did his line. And then — ad-lib — he spit in the middle of my chest,” Smith recalled generating groans from the audience. “The actor felt that the ad-lib had gone well. So we do take two. I do my line. He does his line — and spits in the middle of my chest again…In the distance, I hear a voice. And Antoine says, ‘Hey, let’s do a take without the spit.’ And in that moment, I knew that God was real.”
“I want to thank [AAFCA co-founder Gil L. Robertson] and AAFCA. I want to thank all of you in this room for doing what you do, keeping our stories alive,” Smith continued. “I want to thank Apple because the budget was one thing. And then the budget was another thing. And then the budget was another thing. And Apple never flinched. It was the first time I had heard from a studio that the story was more important than how much it costs to get it done…They make iPhones. They can do it.”
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