Will Smith's first movie since he slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars, historical drama Emancipation, is set to be released next month – but he understands if people aren't ready to see him on-screen again just yet.
Smith hit the headlines earlier this year after he slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars when the comedian made a comment on stage about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith's hair – Pinkett Smith has alopecia. Smith later apologized, going on to address the incident in a YouTube video, but he was subsequently banned from the Oscars for the next 10 years and several of his upcoming projects, including Bad Boys 4, were reportedly shelved or delayed due to the incident.
"I completely understand – if someone is not ready, I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready," the actor told CinemaBlend. "My deepest concern is my team – Antoine has done what I think is the greatest work of his entire career."
He continued: "The people on this team have done some of the best work of their entire careers, and my deepest hope is that my actions don't penalize my team. At this point, that's what I'm working for. I'm hoping that the material – the power of the film, the timeliness of the story – I'm hoping that the good that can be done would open people's hearts at a minimum to see and recognize and support the incredible artists in and around this film."
Directed by Training Day and Olympus Has Fallen helmer Antoine Fuqua, Emancipation is set in the 19th Century and follows an enslaved man named Peter (Smith) who escapes from a Louisiana plantation after being brutally whipped and sets out on a search for his family. Photos of his injured back were published by the press, providing proof of the barbarity of American slavery.
Emancipation is due to be released on Apple TV Plus on December 9. In the meantime, check out our guide to the rest of this year's movie release dates.