Will Smith returned to the awards season circuit on Wednesday to accept the Bacon Award at the African American Film Critics Association Awards. The speech marks the Oscar winner’s first personal acceptance at an awards ceremony since he slapped Chris Rock on stage at the 2022 Academy Awards.
He accepted the award at his side Release Director Antoine FuquaWhich began the acceptance speech by explaining the significance of the award. “The Beacon Award aims to highlight films that address difficult topics with insight and enlightenment as well as audience engagement,” he said. “We hoped so Release, that he will be able to bring to life the story of Peter’s triumphant faith and deep love for his family.” The director went on to thank Apple, the AAFCA, and the film’s cast and crew before handing the microphone over to Smith.
“Release It was the single most difficult movie of my entire career,” the actor began his part of the speech. “It’s really hard to transport the modern mind to that time period. It’s hard to imagine, this level of inhumanity.”
He went on to recount his experience filming the AppleTV+ movie, in which he plays Peter, an enslaved man who shows off his freedom. Smith then recalled being spit spontaneously by a white star while filming a tense scene, and how that affected his understanding of the injustices of the slavery era.
“It was the second day of shooting and it was 110 degrees,” he said. “I was in a scene with one of the white actors, and we had our lines, and the actor decided to do it. So, we’re doing the scene. I did my line. He did his line. And then he smacked it and spit in the middle of my chest. If I had pearls, I’d definitely grab them. I wanted to.” I say, ‘Antoineeeeee,’ but I pause, and I realize Peter can’t call the principal.”
He continued, “I sat there, took a deep breath, and we took two, and the rep felt like the ad-lib had gone right. So, we take two. I do my line. He does his line and he spits in the middle of my chest again. I just held in that moment, And there was a part — it makes me cry now — there was a part of me that was grateful I had truly understand. And then, in the distance, I hear a voice, and Antoine says, “Hey, let’s do this without the spitting.” And in that moment, I knew God was real.”
Smith also thanked the AAFCA and everyone in the room for all they do. Then he took a moment to direct his appreciation towards Apple.
“I want to thank Apple because budget was one thing,” he said. Then the budget was something else. Then the budget was something else. And Apple never backed down. This was the first time I had heard from the studio that the story is more important than the cost of doing it, so we added a few more things that we wanted. They make iPhones. They can do that.”
Before he took to the stage, cameras were flocking to Smith at his first public appearance this awards season. He was notably absent at the NAACP Image Awards, where he won Best Actor for his portrayal of Peter. is later Post a thank you note On his Instagram, he shouted out to the organization for “the work you do all year round” and shared how much it meant to him to be recognized in this way.
In November, the film premiered at Westwood and was momentarily caught in the crossfire of controversy, when the producer snapped the original “skin back” image that inspired the script.
Kristi Peña contributed to this story.
“Lifelong beer expert. General travel enthusiast. Social media buff. Zombie maven. Communicator.”