Will Smith Delivers AAFCA Speech, First Awards Since Oscars Slap – Variety

Will Smith returned to the awards season festivities on Wednesday night, taking the stage to accept the Beacon Award at the African American Film Critics Association Awards. The speech marked Smith’s first in-person speech at an awards show since his controversy at the 2022 Oscars, during which the actor slapped Chris Rock onstage.

Smith’s “Emancipation” co-star Charmaine Bingwa and AAFCA co-founder Gil L. Robertson introduced Smith and Antoine Fuqua, the historical drama’s director, in the early evening. After Fuqua’s one-minute thanks to the AAFCA, Apple TV+, and the film’s cast and crew, Smith took the mic to recount the film’s production.

“’Emancipation’ was the most difficult individual film of my entire career. It was all on the outside, that’s right,” Smith joked, making the crowd laugh.

“It was the second day of filming and 110 degrees… I was in a scene with one of the white actors. The actor decided to ad lib. So we make the scene. I made my line. He made his line. And then – ad lib – he spat in the middle of my chest,” Smith said as the crowd groaned. “The actor felt that the ad lib went well. So we take two. I do my line. He does his line — and spits again in the middle of my chest… In the distance, I hear a voice. And Antoine says, ‘Hey, we’re going to do a take without spitting.’ And at that moment, I knew that God was real.

“I want to thank Gil and AAFCA. I want to thank all of you in this room for doing what you do, for keeping our stories alive. I want to thank Apple, because the budget was a thing. And then the budget was something else. And then the budget was something else. And Apple never flinched,” Smith said. “It was the first time I heard from a studio that the story was more important than the cost of making it… They make iPhones. They can do it.

Ahead of the awards ceremony, Bingwa said Variety On the red carpet, Smith went out of his way to show his appreciation for the “Emancipation” cast who were shooting a particularly difficult scene. “There was a scene where people had to be lying dead in a tunnel…And Will just said, ‘You’re doing a fantastic job. I know it’s really hard. And he gave them all 1,000 extra dollars out of his own pocket,” Bingwa said. He’s just a great guy.

Bingwa also joked that Smith had to wash his feet several times to film the opening scene of the film. “We’re still laughing that he had to wash my feet multiple times in that opening scene. It’s a great foot massager,” she said.

The AAFCA celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, honoring films such as “The Woman King”, “The Inspection”, “Nanny” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”. Other special winners Wednesday night included “Till,” for the Impact award; “Nope” composer Michael Abels for the Innovator Award; Hannah Beachler, production designer “Wakanda Forever,” for the Building Change Award presented by Lowes; and “Wakanda Forever” producer Nate Moore, for the Ashley Boone Award.

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