Emancipation: Prospects of Controversial Star Will Smith to Earn Another Oscar Nomination as Best Actor and/or Best Picture Producer

Will Smith–Prospects of Controversial Actor to Be Oscar Nominated for ‘Emancipation’?

With a 2022 release announced by Apple, Emancipation, Antoine Fuqua’s powerful drama is an Oscar contender beyond Smith’s involvement

Will Smith - Emancipation
Can recent Oscar winner Will Smith overcome the controversy surrounding the slap heard around the world to win his fourth Oscar nomination (and second Oscar win?)

That’s the question facing Apple after it announced the theatrical release of Emancipation, a drama about an escaped slave that paid Smith $35 million to star in and produce.

The streamer is betting that the furor over Smith’s assault of Chris Rock at the Oscars has subsided, particularly after Smith recorded an apology video.

But even if Smith becomes the first performer since Tom Hanks to score back-to-back Oscars for best actor, he won’t be able to pick up his prize in person. Nor will he even be able to accept it via satellite. That’s because in April, facing almost certain expulsion, Smith decided to resign from membership of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences.

It’s unclear how aggressively Smith will campaign for the prize or if Apple will even push him in the crowded Best Actor caatgeory, which also includes Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”), Austin Butler (“Elvis”), Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”) and Hugh Jackman (“The Son”), none of whom slapped a beloved stand-up during a global television event. But if Smith decides to press the flesh, he won’t be able to do it at any Academy member gatherings.

If Smith’s performance was able to overcome his negative publicity, the Academy’s Actors Branch, which is comprised of about 1,400 performers, can place him on their ballot to receive a nomination when voting occurs from January 12-17.

The official nominations will be announced on January 24.

Will Smith in “Emancipation” (Apple Original Films) Apple

Imith plays Peter, a character based on the infamous “Whipped Peter,” an escaped slave whose photo of his scourged back became one of the most widely circulated pictures of the abolitionist movement during the American Civil War.

But that’s not the only category Smith can be nominated for.

The Academy has 18 branches that make up the approximately 9,600 eligible voting members.

In addition to voting in their specific area of expertise, each member votes for Best Picture, and there are 10 available slots.

If “Emancipation” were to be nominated for the top honor, Smith, who serves as one of the producers, alongside Jon Mone (first timer) and former nominees Todd Black (“Fences”), Joey McFarland (Wolf of Wall Street) would be among the nominated producers.

Emancipation screened over the weekend in Washington D.C. as part of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Legislative Conference, along with groups from the Congressional Black Caucus, Historically Black College and Universities, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Power Rising and #WinWithBlackWomen. Both Smith and Fuqua spoke, in person, at the event.

For Apple, the decision to release “Emancipation” was evident. It is the reigning best picture champion of last year’s “CODA.

Next year, the streamer will have two major contenders, Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon and Ridley Scott’s Napoleon.

Smith is not the sole contender for Emancipation; Antoine Fuqua, a respected director for more than 25 years, is at the helm. Fuqua directed Denzel Washington in the vehicle that brought him the lead actor statuette for Training Day in 2001.

In 94 years, only six Black directors have been nominated–Fuqua may become the seventh contender.