UPDATED with video: Will Smith on Wednesday made his first in-person speech at an awards ceremony since the 2022 Oscars slap incident with Chris Rock.
Smith accepted the Beacon Award at the African American Film Critics Association Awards ceremony Wednesday at the Beverly Wilshire. His Emancipation co-star Charmaine Bingwa and AAFCA co-founder Gil L. Robertson introduced Smith and Antoine Fuqua, the film’s director.
After a brief speech by Fuqua, Smith took the stage.
Smith said Emancipation meant so much to him, and thanked the people and companies that supported it being made.
“I want to thank Gil and AAFCA. I want to thank all of you in this room for doing what you do, keeping our stories alive. I want to thank Apple, because the budget was one thing. And then the budget was another thing. And then the budget was another thing. And Apple never flinched,” Smith said. “It was the first time I had heard from a studio that the story was more important than how much it costs to get it done… They make iPhones. They can do it.”
Watch Smith’s speech in the video above.
Before the speech, Smith met on the sidelines with Deadline and said he is happy to be back. Smith is working on the fourth version of his Bad Boys film franchise. He called it like being part of a family, and said he’s never made a fourth film in a series.
“It’s just like going back, and it’s a different vibe,” Smith said. “I’m so happy to be back with the same people.”
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