Director Antoine Fuqua’s Emancipation is coming to theaters on December 2 and Apple TV+ on December 9, and it tells the story (based on real events) of a man who escaped from slavery and joined the Union Army during the Civil War, after which his horrifically whip-scarred back was photographed and distributed as an important anti-slavery message. Fuqua said that it’s his “strongest piece of work” and Apple seems confident in it, but Emancipation also stars Will Smith in his first role since slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars.
Fuqua said in October that Apple “never stopped talking about releasing the film” despite what happened at the Oscars, and in a new Vanity Fair interview, he doubles-down on that by saying that there was never any talk “about the movie not coming out” and that Apple was “very careful” in planning out how to do it and in gathering different opinions on it. Ultimately, the movie is moving forward with its release as planned, with Fuqua offering up a rhetorical question in response to the idea of shelving the movie: “Isn’t 400 years of slavery, of brutality, more important than one bad moment?” Fuqua also pointed out that, in Hollywood, there have been “some really ugly things that have taken place” and that “we’ve seen a lot of people get awards that have done some really nasty things,” and Apple had to weigh all of that to see how it felt about Emancipation.
As for Smith specifically, Fuqua has nothing but nice things to say about him as a person and about working with him, saying he’s the “nicest person I’ve ever met in my life” and that everybody who worked on Emancipation will “tell you the same.” He also says that he knows Chris Rock and thinks he’s also “a good guy,” and while it was “an unfortunate event,” he hopes that “we can move forward and get past it.”