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Guess which slap-happy actor will star in a likely Apple TV Plus Oscar winner next year

Published Mar 29th, 2022 10:12AM EDT
will smith holding oscar award
Image: OConnor-Arroyo/

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That Will Smith Oscars slap heard ‘round the world, as Puck News’ Matt Belloni has described it, didn’t merely overshadow everything else at the 94th Academy Awards on Sunday. Including big moments like Apple TV Plus becoming the first streamer to win a Best Picture Oscar. It’s also created some potential awkwardness around a potential Apple Oscar contender next year that stars … checks notes … none other than Smith. In what could be yet another Oscar-winning movie.

As of now — with the Academy having launched a formal review of the ugly spectacle — Smith has not faced any formal repercussions. The moment simply came and went. One of the most celebrated Black members of the Academy rushed the stage to slap a Black comedian on live TV. Before returning to his seat to angrily lob a few F-bombs for good measure. And no one did a thing about it. 

And then, in an especially gross turn of events? Smith actually defended his actions (“Love will make you do crazy things”) during the acceptance speech for his Best Actor award just moments later. He apologized, eventually. To the academy. Then, much later, to the slap-ee Chris Rock. The Academy, meanwhile, is still trying to figure out what punishment, if any, to mete out. Suspend Smith as a voting member? For how long? And how can the awards show prevent this kind of thing in the future?

Will Smith Oscars slap

Speaking of the future: The Slap already looks like it’s also going to impact next year’s Oscars ceremony, as well. In all likelihood, Smith is going to be back in 2023, the star of yet another critical darling. That one would be director Antoine Fuqua’s runaway-slave thriller Emancipation, which Apple TV Plus is releasing later this year.

Surely, the Academy won’t decide to temporarily ban awards consideration for Smith at the end of its investigation. By the same token, does that mean everything will just proceed as normal next year? Are the hosts going to just laugh it all off, as if the episode was some random punchline fodder?

Given that Smith was very happily dancing and clearly enjoying himself during the post-ceremony Oscar festivities, the latter is probably, unfortunately, closer to the mark. Or maybe the Academy will decide to create a “moment” at next year’s Oscars and have the two actors bro it out. To the extent that they publicly bury the hatchet on stage (though I doubt it).

Emancipation movie on Apple TV Plus

man wearing a suit
Director Antoine Fuqua’s runaway slave thriller “Emancipation” is coming to Apple TV Plus later this year. Image source: GTRES/MEGA

To the degree that any of this takes attention away next year from Emancipation and from Apple TV Plus’ increasingly robust film efforts, however, that will be a shame. Especially because of how remarkable it is to see the iPhone maker’s streamer come into its own. And in a fraction of the time that it took Netflix (in terms of industry acceptance, critical recognition, and the ratio of quality-to-fluff on the service).

As our sister publication Deadline has explained about Apple’s Emancipation, Smith portrays a slave named Peter. He flees a Louisiana plantation after he’s horrifically beaten, then sets out on a journey north. Along the way, he’s forced to try and outwit merciless hunters and somehow survive the unforgiving Lousiana swamps. Until, eventually, he joins the Union Army.

All of which is to say, Emancipation certainly feels like the kind of big, important work that tends to do well come Oscar time.

Indeed, Apple will probably follow up its Best Picture win for Coda with another big Oscars showing in 2023. While the ceremony, unfortunately, will no doubt continue to be sanitized into the comedic equivalent of a vegetative state. To say nothing of the train wreck fascination that will cause viewers to briefly tune in next year, curious about what chaos might once again ensue.

More entertainment coverage: For more entertainment news, check out our coverage of the latest new Netflix movies and series to watch.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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