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Will Smith Makes His First Oscars Appearance Since the Academy Awards – The Hollywood Reporter


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 speech at the awards ceremony since he slapped Chris Rock on stage at the 2022 Academy Awards.

He accepted the award at his side Release Director Antion Fuqua who began his 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.

The actor began his part of the speech by recounting his experience filming completely outdoors and being spontaneously spat on by a white co-star while filming a tense scene, and how it affected his understanding of the injustices of the slavery era. In the Apple TV+ movie, he plays Peter, an enslaved man who shows his freedom.

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. He later posted a thank-you note on his Instagram, shouting at the organization for “the work you do all year round” and sharing 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.

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Kristi Peña contributed to this story.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.