Leave Will Smith Alone!

Will Smith did a bad, bad thing, and there’s not a sane soul who can deny it.

Slapping Oscar presenter Chris Rock for ribbing the superstar’s wife about her bald head brought endless scrutiny on the former “Fresh Prince.”

He became a national laughingstock following the Oscars ceremony in March. Many wondered if, not when, he’d re-emerge as an in-demand actor.

Rock has spent weeks poking fun at what happened on comedy stages during his stand-up routine, enjoying a curious career boost in the process. The opposite befell Smith, whose mega-star status and squeaky-clean image ended that night.

He deserved it, especially when Smith failed to apologize for “the slap” minutes later from the Oscar podium. He could have done damage control then and there while accepting the Best Actor award for “King Richard.” Instead, he not so subtlety suggested he did the right thing by slapping Rock.

Richard Williams [who Smith played in “King Richard”] was a fierce defender of his family. In this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world … I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people.

Will Smith’s Oscar acceptance speech

Smith later issued a poorly received video apology months after “the slap,” which seemed insufficient as a PR maneuver.

His latest project, “Emancipation,” lets his craft speak for him.

The Apple TV+ film will hit theaters and the streaming platform this December.

The story smacks of Oscar consideration, casting Smith as an escaped slave who relies on his wits, and faith, to stay alive. In any year Smith’s performance would spark serious Best Actor buzz. His body of work inspires that consideration, and a December release connected to the country’s racist past similarly screams, “hand this movie all the awards” in woke Hollywood. 

Except it’s unclear if Smith’s “Slap” will damage the film itself, let alone his chances for another Best Actor nomination. The fact that the movie is coming out at all is news. The Apple brain trust didn’t make the move without serious plotting.

The New York Post argues any talk of a Smith Best Actor nomination is a travesty of justice.

The move would expose that [Hollywood’s] only truly close-held value is saying whatever makes them look good in the press for a few days. They lecture us and then do the opposite.

New York Post

The Hollywood Reporter anonymously quizzed Oscar voters about a possible Smith comeback, and the responses suggest he has little chance of a second statuette so soon. Some offered hope for Smith’s redemption, while others insist he should never receive Oscar buzz again.

Would I vote for Smith? NO F***ING WAY. His shameful violent outburst and pathetic sniveling ‘acceptance’ diatribe witnessed by millions — and his blatant disrespect of the Academy — should preclude him from any consideration and reward from AMPAS members for life.”

Anonymous Oscar voter

That opinion is understandable, but short sighted. Film is a collaborative medium, and one person’s actions shouldn’t reflect on a film where hundreds, if not thousands, of people work in unison to create art.

Plus, where does this end? The Oscars are already brimming with reasons to vote for, or against, a performer beyond their on-screen work. 

Right-leaning actors have far less chance of being nominated, let alone winning, the coveted awards. Who was the last openly conservative actor to snag an Academy Award? Clint Eastwood rushes to mind.

Anyone else?

The 2023 Oscars Are Slated For March 12th

A performer’s progressive activism can help them land a golden trophy above and beyond what they accomplish on screen. Some may have voted for Leonardo Di Caprio to win the Best Actor honors for “The Revenant” in 2016 knowing he’d make a Climate Change-themed acceptance speech.

He didn’t disappoint.

The latest wrinkle? Woke Academy rules dictate which films can be eligible for Best Picture consideration. Shoot a film that paints Black Lives Matter in a negative light, and your chances just reduced dramatically under new guidelines promoting progressive storylines above others.

Let’s not kid ourselves about the current attacks on Smith. Stars behave badly all the time. Casey Affleck’s troubling track record with women was no secret in 2017, the year he nabbed the Best Actor award for “Manchester By the Sea.”

For the record, producer Harvey Weinstein’s films have earned 81 Oscars before his sexual assault record went public. Many say his outrageous actions were an open secret behind closed Hollywood doors.

The court of public opinion will have the final say on Smith’s career moving forward. Audiences will either forgive, forget and line up to see his future films … or do just the opposite.

It’s the Academy’s job to honor the best performances and brightest films in a given year, regardless of how badly some stars conduct themselves.

Written by Christian Toto

Christian Toto is an award-winning film critic, journalist and founder of HollywoodInToto.com, the Right Take on Entertainment. He’s the author of “Virtue Bombs: How Hollywood Got Woke and Lost Its Soul” and a lifelong Yankees fan. Toto lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife, two sons and too many chickens.

Follow Christian on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HollywoodInToto

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