The Oscar clap heard around the world accomplished what many thought to be impossible. It made Will Smith unlikeable. The Fresh Prince has always been one of America’s favorite actors and has maintained this for over three decades. Even the extreme backlash following Jada Pinkett-Smith’s “entanglement” and the constant criticism of his kids could not damper his perfectly manicured image. However, that quickly changed following him slapping Chris Rock. Now, several months removed from the moment, we are finally seeing Will step back into the spotlight and possibly on his way to reclaiming his throne.
The Oscar night should have been a career milestone for Will Smith. He took home the award for Best Actor following his critically acclaimed portrayal of Venus and Serena Williams’s father, Richard Williams. Unfortunately, him slapping Chris Rock earlier in the night completely overshadowed this and sent Will into silence few months, only broken up by a written apology and a video one over the summer.
Meanwhile, Chris Rock has been thriving. The comic had already announced a tour prior to the incident and saw tickets for it skyrocket in the aftermath. He was able to follow up his wildly successful “Ego Death” solo show with the Kevin Hart co-headlined show ironically titled “Only Headliners Allowed.” While many sympathized with Rock for getting attacked, others felt he had it coming after years of tasteless jokes. Rock did not stay in the public’s good graces for long, however. As he’s begun to open up more and more with jokes about how the slap affected him, people have been reminded of his crude humor and tendency to be insensitive.
He initially attempted to downplay the event and talked about how he got up the next day and “went back to work.” He called Will Smith “Suge Smith” and was even gifted a goat on stage by Dave Chapelle that they named Will Smith. However, Rock got some blowback when he compared him returning to the Oscars next year to OJ Simpson’s deceased wife Nicole Brown Simpson returning to the scene where her life was taken. People did not like this and began to side with Smith again, realizing that maybe he was justified in slapping some sense into Rock.
Film studios have not forgotten how bankable Will Smith is either, especially now with an Oscar under his belt and a well-timed comeback story. According to IMDB, Smith already has 13 new projects in the works for release in the coming months. While a handful of them only list him as a producer, titles like Handcock 2 definitely have fans anticipating Smith’s grand return to the big screen. He is also executive producing a sequel to his son Jaden Smith’s film The Karate Kid.
Will’s next appearance is in the new Apple+ television series Emancipation. The streaming giant dropped their trailer today for the slavery/period film where Smith stars as a man named “Whipped Peter.” The film’s release was uncertain following the Oscars, but it will finally arrive in theaters and Apple+ in December. “This is not a film about slavery,” Smith told Vanity Fair. “This is a film about freedom. This is a film about resilience. This is a film about faith.”