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Will Smith responds to fans who reject his comeback

Will Smith has started his first press tour for a new movie since the infamous slap incident at the Oscars, and says he understands if people aren't ready.

Will Smith in Emancipation

Awards season is hotting up once again, with people speculating for the next few months which movies, actors, and actresses will be nominated for Oscars in 2023. The last ceremony, in 2022, ended up being completely overshadowed by an on-stage incident where Will Smith slapped Chris Rock for a joke he made while presenting an award. Minutes later, Smith won the Oscar for Best Lead Actor.

Smith has subsequently been banned from attending the Oscars for a decade. There followed months of speculation about Smith’s next projects, and if he was going to be dropped from movies he had coming up. One film that is already finished is Emancipation, which under normal circumstances, could well have been an Oscar front-runner.

Emancipation is a slavery drama set for release at the start of December, which is prime awards-season time. It is being released by Apple TV, who won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2022 with Coda. Smith has started the press tour for the film, fully aware that he is going to be asked about ‘the slap’ a lot, but he doesn’t want that to overshadow the movie.

“I completely understand — if someone is not ready, I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready,” Smith told journalist Kevin McCarthy when asked what he would say to moviegoers who aren’t ready for his comeback. “My deepest concern is my team – Antoine [Fuqua, director] has done what I think is the greatest work of his entire career. The people on this team have done some of the best work of their entire careers, and my deepest hope is that my actions don’t penalise my team. At this point, that’s what I’m working for.”

Smith added, “I’m hoping that the material — the power of the film, the timeliness of the story — I’m hoping that the good that can be done would open people’s hearts at a minimum to see and recognise and support the incredible artists in and around this film.”

While we wait for the release of Emancipation, check out our guide to the best drama movies.