Will Smith Is Generating New Oscars Buzz

Actor could be a nominee in Academy he's banned from for 10 years after Chris Rock controversy
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 4, 2022 8:36 AM CDT

Will Smith was banned from the Oscars for 10 years for slapping Chris Rock at this year's ceremony, but that doesn't mean he can't win another Academy Award. Smith, who picked up the Best Actor award for his role in King Richard following the infamous slap, is generating Oscar buzz again following the release of the trailer for Emancipation, his first film since the drama, in which he plays an enslaved person in quest of freedom. The film is to be released in theaters on Dec. 2 and on Apple TV+ a week later, making it eligible for the 2023 Oscars, per the BBC. As Entertainment Weekly correspondent Dave Karger tells People, Smith "could feasibly be a nominee again."

The 54-year-old actor resigned as a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in April, but that would not prevent him from being nominated, Karger says. "But he wouldn't be able to accept the award in person if he were to win." The Antoine Fuqua-directed Emancipation—inspired by the true story of "Whipped Peter," whose mutilated body was shown in 1863 photographs that helped turn the tide against slavery—"had been considered a prime awards season contender" before the slap, per Deadline. That buzz has been renewed following an advanced screening during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 51st annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, on Saturday.

Some viewers praised Smith's portrayal of Peter as especially powerful. According to IndieWire's Marcus Jones, "there is already plenty of buzz that he is great in the film." Still, "Smith has little chance of getting back-to-back Best Actor nominations" given that there is "still a faction of Academy voters that believe he should have been banned from Oscar contention indefinitely. It's just too soon for that comeback," Jones writes. We'll know for certain when nominees are announced Jan. 24. Even if Smith is nominated, IndieWire's Christian Zilko argues "Smith's current status with the Academy" means the scenario of "back to back acting Oscars" is likely "impossible." (More Will Smith stories.)

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