Directed by Antoine Fuqua (TRAINING DAY), the Civil War period drama stars Smith as a horrifically abused runaway slave. It opens in theatres on 12/2 to qualify & starts streaming on 12/9. EMANCIPATION wasn’t expected to surface until 2023 when Smith’s slapping of Oscar host Chris Rock (pictured) last April would be less fresh in mind.
The Academy leadership at the time — not as smart as today’s team — handled Smith’s poor behavior poorly. He resigned from the Academy before they could throw him out. They banned him from attending the Oscars for the next 10 years. Unfortunately, they didn’t specify what to do if he were nominated or won for a future film.
After the news that Smith is again a potential lead actor nominee, reporters found widespread distaste among Academy members for his candidacy, although they said they’d consider rewarding the film, itself. Actually, that’s also a problem since Smith is one of its four producers.
To some extent, Apple was in a difficult spot because it paid about $130M to acquire EMANCIPATION at Cannes in June 2020 & needs to release it. Putting it into next year’s Oscar race wasn’t a good option since Apple’s launching Martin Scorsese’s crime drama KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON, starring Leonardo DiCaprio & Robert De Niro, in 2023 & it’s the best picture frontrunner from the get-go.