The Oscar buzz being generated by Will Smith‘s new movie about slavery begs the question of whether the Academy Awards will even nominate him following the slap heard ’round the world at this year’s ceremony.
Dozens of members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — the organization that oversees the nominating process for the Academy Awards — have said they will refuse to nominate Smith despite critics hailing the new movie, called “Emancipation,” as a masterpiece.
The film — inspired by a true story about an enslaved man who embarks on a perilous journey to reunite with his family — was screened last week at the annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Legislative Conference and immediately sparked speculation about awards season.
But the controversy of Smith slapping Oscars host and comedian Chris Rock in the face over jokes about the actor’s wife remains looming large more than six months later as “Emancipation” is set to officially premiere in December. The timing of the movie’s release makes it eligible to be considered by the Academy for next year’s awards ceremony.
We already know Smith is banned from the Academy Awards ceremony for 10 years, but that banishment doesn’t preclude him from being nominated.
Still, that fact doesn’t guarantee anything, as evidenced by how some Academy members, most of whom requested anonymity, are adamant about not nominating him regardless of whether his performance fits the criteria, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
“No chance I would vote for him,” one member of the Academy’s directors branch said.
One member of the writers branch said they hope Smith doesn’t get nominated.
“I don’t want that drama to overshadow this year’s show and this year’s nominees. And if he is nominated I won’t be voting for him. I don’t care how good the performance is.”
However, others said they were open to Smith being nominated depending on his performance, albeit begrudgingly.
“The Academy should have banned him forever,” one member of the producers branch said. “If the movie is the best one, I will vote for it, but I won’t forget what Mr. Smith did.”
One member of the actors branch said they’ve grown weary of movies with “the slave theme” but admitted they “would consider voting for him if he is great in something.”
That said, the prevailing theme among the Academy members interviewed by the Hollywood Reporter was not one of positivity toward Smith.
“Would I vote for Smith? NO FUCKING WAY,” said Lawrence David Foldes, a member of the producers branch. “His shameful violent outburst and pathetic sniveling ‘acceptance’ diatribe witnessed by millions — and his blatant disrespect of the Academy — should preclude him from any consideration and reward from AMPAS members for life.”
Of course, it can’t be ignored that the 2003 Academy Award for Best Director was given to Roman Polanski, who pleaded guilty to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl he was accused of drugging and raping.
If we’re comparing transgressions, one grown man slapping another pales in comparison to the rape of a young teenager.
“Emancipation,” directed by Antoine Fuqua and also starring Charmaine Bingwa, Ben Foster, Grant Harvey, Steven Ogg, Gilbert Orr, Mustafa Shakir and Jason Warner Smith, is set for release in theaters on Dec. 2 and streaming via Apple TV+ on Dec. 9.
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