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Will Smith might’ve slapped Apple’s next Oscar-winning movie into 2023

will smith holding oscar award

After the “slap heard around the world” at this year’s Oscars ceremony overshadowed other headlines from the annual Hollywood awards bash — like Apple TV Plus beating Netflix to be the first streaming service to take home a Best Picture Oscar (for CODA)  — the prognostications quickly got underway for next year’s ceremony.

Apple, for example, was thought to have another Best Picture Oscar contender already teed up, in the form of the $120 million Civil War-era movie Emancipation. The movie wrapped up filming earlier this year and has awards bait all over it. The problem is that it also has a leading man who’s a bit radioactive at the moment. Will Smith, who marched onto the Oscars stage earlier this year and slapped Chris Rock on live TV for telling a joke about Smith’s wife, plays the lead role.

Apple isn’t commenting about the release of Emancipation, which should have been forthcoming this year. But now, there is chatter that the iPhone maker, which could definitely use more attention and buzz for its Netflix rival that’s comparatively light on volume, might push the film’s release into 2023. That postponement could also subsequently delay, or even scuttle outright, a potential Oscar win.

Apple TV Plus movie Emancipation delay?

Smith is still allowed to be nominated by the Academy. However, he’s not allowed to attend the Oscars ceremony in person for 10 years.

Apple, meanwhile, is basically in a damned-if-they-do, damned-if-they-don’t scenario with Emancipation. Pushing it into next year, which is the direction in which Apple seems to be leaning, certainly does no favors for Apple TV Plus. But releasing it this year is even riskier for the company. The Slap, of course, would dominate the ensuing press coverage. And what if audiences respond strongly to the movie, leading to an Oscars marketing campaign from Apple, which would look a little gross?

READ MORE: The 4 must-watch Apple TV Plus series (September 2022)

Apple TV+ logo
The official Apple TV Plus logo Image source: Apple

The bigger question here: Does this Apple TV Plus film even have a chance of succeeding on its own merit?

As far as what it’s about, Antoine Fuqua directed it from a script by William Collage. It’s based on a true story, that of a slave who escaped to the North and joined Union soldiers to fight against the Confederacy. Coincidentally, filming was completed about a month or so before the now-infamous Oscars telecast in March of this year.


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Andy Meek profile photo

Andy Meek is a reporter 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.