Seven months ago, Will Smith had the whole world gasping in disbelief when he walked onto the stage at the 94th Academy Awards and slapped the living daylights out of comedian Chris Rock, who joked about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss.
Even though Smith apologised for his behaviour and resigned from the Academy, he was still banned from attending the Oscars for the next 10 years.
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Will Smith speaks about the slap
The King Richard actor has only now really opened up about the slap that almost pivoted his career off course.
In one of the first interviews since the slap incident at the Academy Awards, Smith told Fox Entertainment All Stars’ Jake Hamilton that is has been a difficult last few months.
Smith’s new movie Emancipation has Oscar potential, and many people are wondering if audiences are ready to forgive the actor.
Speaking to Hamilton, Smith said he hopes that the importance of the story and the importance of Peter will rise above those feelings and emotions.
“I would just hope that these spectacular artists who have come together on this project will not be penalised for a few moments of horrific indiscretion on my part.”
Smith said portraying the role of Peter taught him a ‘giant spiritual lesson’.
“It was interesting that the playing of Peter led into these last few months of my life and there was a new idea that came through. The ability to have an open heart in hell is the only way to be here. That is the giant spiritual lesson that I took away from Peter. It’s the lesson of all of our Holly books.
“For me when I look at Peter and when I see humans who have learned how to live in hell with an open heart, that is the north star for me. I will purify my heart and I will purify my mind and purify my actions to the point that I can sit comfortably with my heart wide open in hell.”
Will Smith on The Daily Show
In an interview with Daily Show host Trevor Noah on Tuesday, the actor said the Oscars night was a horrific night and that there are many nuances and complexities to it.
“But at the end of the day, I just lost it. I guess what I would say is that you just never know what somebody is going through. I was going through something that night. Not that justifies my behaviour at all.”
“I guess the thing that was most painful for me is I took my heart and made it hard for other people,” the actor said.
Smith said that’s not who he wants to be and understands how shocking that was [the slap] for people on that stage.
“I was gone, I was really gone. That was a rage that was bottled for a really long time.”
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Smith once again reiterated during his interview with Noah that it kills him that these artists [the team behind Emancipation] might be denied because of him.
“The thing that is so critical for me is that these people came and they trusted me and they were down for me. I just hope that their work will be honoured and that their work will not be tainted based on a horrific decision on my part.”
Concluding his interview Smith said one of the big things for him over the last couple of months was that he had to forgive himself for being human.
“There’s nobody that hates the fact that I’m human, more than me. I had to humble down and realise that I’m a flawed human and I still have an opportunity to go out into the world and contribute in a way that fills my heart and hopefully helps other people.”
Watch the interview below:
The buzzed-about new Will Smith movie, Emancipation tells the true story of a run-away slave named Peter and his death-defying escape through the Louisiana swamps, and his journey to freedom.
The film will be available for streaming in South Africa from 9 December.