Will Smith’s Emancipation press tour rolled through Los Angeles on Wednesday night as the Oscar-winning actor turned up to support the Apple Original Films’ release in a showing that marked Smith’s first major red carpet appearance since March’s controversial Oscar telecast.
Smith hit the carpet outside Westwood’s Regency Village Theater just after 7 pm, joined by wife Jada Pinkett Smith and children Trey, Jaden and Willow. He received cheers from the crush of photographers as he stepped on the carpet, responding with a hearty, “What’s the deal? What’s the deal?” Smith then spent a good chunk of time posing for photos with the cast and top Apple executives Jamie Erlicht, Eddy Cue and Zack Van Amburg before making his way down the line by generously giving time to each outlet.
Although filmmaker Antoine Fuqua was absent — he’s currently in Italy filming Equalizer 3 with Denzel Washington — Smith was joined by their team of collaborators including Ben Foster, Charmaine Bingwa, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Grant Harvey, Jayson Warner Smith, Jabbar Lewis, Austin Alexander, Clyde R. Jones, Jeremiah Friedlander, Jordyn McIntosh, Melissa Lehman, Merah Benoit, the film’s writer William N. Collage, McFarland Entertainment producer Joey McFarland, Westbrook Studios producer Jon Mone, Escape Artists producer Todd Black and more. Fellow guests who turned up to show support included Tiffany Haddish, Da Baby, Matt Barnes and others.
Based on a true story, Emancipation follows Peter (Smith), who runs away from his plantation in search of his family, outwitting cold-blooded hunters and surviving the Louisiana swamps along the way. Peter eventually joins the Union Army. During a medical examination, his bare back, which had scars on it from a near-fatal whipping at the hands of his former plantation’s overseer, was photographed. The Independent published the photo, undoubtedly proving the cruelty and barbarity of slavery in America.
“When I took this film, I envisioned the potential service it could be to modern social conversation. I thought it would be a necessary reminder of some of the roads we had gone down as a country in the past to potentially avert any of those similar paths,” Smith told The News84Media as he made his way down the line. “To have a movie like this in this time for me, and even this time in my life, is poetic perfection.”
The film will be released in select theaters on Dec. 2 followed by a global streaming debut on Dec. 9. While the fate of the film was in question in the wake of March’s Oscar telecast — Smith stormed the stage and slapped presenter Chris Rock after the comedian made a joke about Pinkett Smith — Apple and the filmmakers elected to push forward with the rollout.
The first screening was held in Washington DC on Oct. 1, in partnership with the NAACP during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 51st annual Legislative Conference. Weeks later, Smith joined an exclusive roster of guests in LA where Rihanna, ASAP Rocky, Tyler Perry, Kenya Barris, music producer Corey Smyth, celebrity stylists Fawn Boardley and writer-producer Esa Lewis, among others, watched the film.
Perhaps the most notable guest in the room that night was Dave Chappelle, who had joined Rock for a series of sold-out stand-up shows. In an Instagram post, Smith called it an “EPIC night!”
Earlier this month, Tyler was present with Smith for another screening, this one went down in Atlanta and played host to “our next generation of filmmakers,” per Smith, including students from Morehouse College, Spellman College and Clark Atlanta University.
On the press front, Smith’s Emancipation tour revved up this week, first with an interview with Fox DC affiliate Good day and interviewer Kevin McCarthy. Then, he sat opposite Trevor Noah on The Daily Show for his most extensive interview yet after the Oscars. Looking back on the March 27 show, Smith called it a “horrific night,” despite his best actor win for King Richard.
“I had to forgive myself for being human,” said Smith, who also taped an appearance opposite Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on their series. All the Smoke for Showtime Basketball YouTube channel. “Trust me, there’s nobody that hates the fact that I’m human more than me. And just finding that space for myself within myself to be human. It’s like, I want, I’ve always wanted to be Superman. I’ve always wanted to swoop in and save the damsel in distress, you know. And I had to humble down, you know, and realize that I’m a flawed human, and I still have an opportunity to go out in the world and contribute in a way that fills my heart, and hopefully helps other people.”
He also said it was important to him that his mistake should not overshadow Emancipationa film that he has frequently called Fuqua’s best work to date.
More to come from inside Wednesday’s premiere.
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