What Comes Next for Will Smith After the Oscar Slam: Hollywood’s Biggest Mystery


Sunday night’s Oscars ceremony wasn’t the first time Will Smith’s stardom has been defined more by his personal life than his on-screen roles.

Recently, he documented his weight loss on a YouTube show, “Best Shape of My Life.” He appeared on his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s Facebook show “Red Table Talk” to discuss their briefly falling apart marriage. He tested his personal strength in nature adventures around the world in the streaming series “Welcome to Earth” for Walt Disney Co.

And last November, he revealed deep secrets in “Will,” a memoir that spent months on bestseller lists.

“What you’ve come to understand as ‘Will Smith’, the alien-annihilating MC, the larger-than-life movie star, is largely a construct – a carefully crafted and honed character – designed to protect me,” he writes in the book.

Yet Mr Smith, long one of Hollywood’s biggest and most bankable stars, has rarely seemed truly out of the script. That is until Sunday night, when the 53-year-old actor took to the stage at the Oscars and punched comedian Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife. About an hour later, he won the Best Actor Oscar for his role in ‘King Richard’, delivering a tearful speech in which he apologized to the Academy and the other nominees and said, ” In this business, you have to be able to have people disrespect you and you have to smile and you have to pretend that you’re okay.

What Hollywood, the academy, and viewers ultimately make of this night will have ripple effects on the career of one of the most likable stars on the planet.

The 94th Academy Awards came to an abrupt halt when actor Will Smith took the stage and punched comedian Chris Rock after making a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s short hair. The Academy later said it had initiated disciplinary proceedings against Smith. Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said on Wednesday it had initiated disciplinary proceedings against Mr Smith for breaching its standards of conduct, “including inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behavior, and compromising the ‘integrity of the Academy’. Mr. Smith will receive at least 15 days’ notice before a vote regarding his violations, and he may offer a written response. Discipline could include suspension, expulsion or other penalties, the academy said. The council meets again on April 18. The academy also clarified that Mr Smith had been asked to leave the ceremony and he refused, adding “we also recognize that we could have handled the situation differently”.

Mr Smith apologized to Mr Rock, the academy and viewers of the show in an Instagram post on Monday night, calling his behavior “unacceptable and inexcusable”.

“I’m embarrassed and my actions weren’t indicative of the man I want to be,” he said.

How the night will affect Mr Smith’s career remains unclear. Hollywood hasn’t spoken of anything else since, but few industry powerhouses will say anything publicly while they wait for news on the Academy’s next moves. Since the ceremony, some stars have said they find the actor’s actions disturbing.

“Waiting for this sickening feeling to go away from what we’ve all witnessed,” Oscars co-host Amy Schumer said in an Instagram post Tuesday night. Her co-host Wanda Sykes said in an interview with Ellen DeGeneres that she was “still a bit traumatized.”

Will Smith receives his Oscar for best actor.


Photo:

Rich Fury/VF22/Getty Images

A rep for Mr Smith said the actor was not commenting further. A representative for Mr. Rock did not respond to a request for comment.

Three in five Americans think Mr Smith’s actions at the Oscars were bad, according to a poll of 1,319 people by research firm YouGov on Monday.

Mr. Smith is one of the few actors in contemporary Hollywood who can largely control his own destiny by greenlighting projects on star power alone and often joining as a producer.

He has several high-profile projects in development, including an Apple Inc.

a film called “Emancipation” which is due for release later this year and which could put Mr. Smith back on the awards circuit within months.

What Comes Next for Will Smith After the Oscar Slam: Hollywood's Biggest Mystery

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones star in blockbuster ‘Men in Black’.


Photo:

Columbia Pictures/Everett Collection

Apple has made no changes to its plan for a late 2022 release, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The production of “Emancipation” reflects Mr. Smith’s star power. When he agreed to star in the film in 2020, the project became one of the hottest titles on a virtual market organized by the Cannes Film Festival. Mr Smith stars in the true story of a runaway slave who escaped to the North and helped spark anti-slavery campaigns when photos of his eyelash-marked back were published.

Bidders rushed for the chance to work on the film. Apple ended up joining us in producing the movie for over $100 million, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Apple bought the project with the intention of releasing it theatrically and on its AppleTV+ streaming service, a similar rollout to its 2021 release of “CODA,” which won best picture on Sunday about an hour after M was slapped. .Smith.

Mr. Smith began his career exploring his personal story, as a Philadelphia-raised rapper and star of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” a comedy series recently remade into a drama. His movie career reached stratospheric heights with “Independence Day,” the 1996 blockbuster in which he played a pilot repelling a global alien invasion.

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The film was the highest-grossing release that year – it grossed $553 million in the US when takings are adjusted for inflation – and set a pattern for the “event movie” in the studio. , featuring Super Bowl ads, Time magazine covers and a tie. -in toys. Soon, Mr. Smith ruled the Fourth of July weekend, when “Men in Black” followed in 1997.

Mr. Smith began producing some of his own projects in the early 2000s, and in 2019 he founded Westbrook, a media company that focused on the entertainment business for his entire family. In January, private equity-backed Candle Media paid $60 million for more than 10% of Westbrook Inc., continuing a series of Wall Street investments in celebrity-focused media ventures.

Westbrook’s training illustrated how much of Mr. Smith’s stardom is, increasingly, a package deal: his wife, Mrs. Pinkett Smith, and their two children, Jaden and Willow. Soon, the interpersonal relationships of the four were matter of programming.

What Comes Next for Will Smith After the Oscar Slam: Hollywood's Biggest Mystery

Will Smith in Red Table Talk.


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Mr. Smith and his family have recently embraced the same kind of faith-based entertainment that has helped create famous families like the Kardashians. Mr Smith’s children with Mrs Pinkett Smith, as well as Trey, a child from a previous relationship, have all played each other on television.

In July 2020, Mr Smith appeared on his wife’s talk show to discuss rumors of infidelity in the relationship. The incident related to a separation the couple had experienced approximately four years prior.

“I was done with you,” Mr. Smith said. “Weddings have that, though.”

During that separation, Ms Pinkett Smith said she found herself in “a different kind of entanglement” with another man. The couple’s 13-minute conversation is heavy in therapy language, including details of Ms Pinkett Smith’s co-dependency and childhood trauma.

In his book, Mr Smith refers to his family’s earlier plans for “world domination”. Yet in “Best Shape of My Life”, he expresses his concern about the constant spotlight.

“It’s too much,” he said. “I just think it’s none of the people’s business.”

Write to Erich Schwartzel at erich.schwartzel@wsj.com and Ellen Gamerman at ellen.gamerman@wsj.com

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