When he smacked Chris Rock on stage at the Oscars last weekend, Will Smith went from beloved film star to Hollywood villain. Has he caused irreparable harm to his reputation and career, and what might happen next?
On Sunday night, when the Oscars came to a close, Will Smith may have felt he had contained the impact of his smack.
His teary acceptance speech for best actor, in which he apologized to the Academy and his fellow candidates and attempted to portray himself as the “defender of his family,” was met with a standing ovation.
In traditional Big Willie fashion, he posed and danced with his best actor statuette at the after-show celebration as if nothing had happened. Or as though he felt relieved to have weathered the storm.
Outside of Vanity Fair’s Oscars celebration, Will Smith posed with his statuette. The next morning, though, the storm had not subsided. As others assessed his violent behavior in the cold light of day, it simply escalated.
Sharon Waxman, editor-in-chief of The Wrap, deems it somewhat illogical to believe that a single incident could erase decades of goodwill.
“However, it was so public and so unconventional. One agent we spoke with described it as a “remarkable act of narcissism.” Will Smith’s reputation as a movie star is severely harmed.” Her website has released an article inquiring of film industry experts as to whether Smith’s career is “mortally harmed.”
“The conclusion is yes,” says Waxman. “‘Mortally wounded’ is a phrase from one of the agents we spoke with, who stated he is essentially finished as an A-list movie actor. Smith had been nominated for two Oscars earlier, including Ali in 2002.
“There’s a real sense that relatability has been taken away from Will Smith with this gesture, as people no longer feel he’s someone they want to look up to, adore, and pretend could be them on television.”
Kim Masters, editor-at-large of the Hollywood Reporter, concurs that Smith, known for films such as Men In Black, Independence Day, and Bad Boys, has severely damaged his reputation.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today program, “He’s established an image over many, many years, and this was a complete breach from that persona.”
“At the Vanity Fair party, his behavior as well as his victory speech and subsequent dancing as if he had nothing to worry about left everyone in utter shock. This is a significant departure from what people have come to anticipate from Will Smith.”
Smith’s popular films include the Men in Black series with Tommy Lee Jones.
She noted that the 53-year-old actor had no history of generating trouble and was known to be nice with his co-stars. Despite this, many individuals have stated that they cannot look at him the same way again.
What Can We Anticipate from Him Over the Next Few Months?
There may be charitable work, a public declaration of therapy or anger management, and the customary confessional interview – possibly even on his family’s Facebook chat program Red Table Talk.
This is where he and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith disclosed their relationship problems in 2020, the closest he has ever been to scandal.
It is also where Pinkett Smith discussed her alopecia – the hair loss ailment at the heart of her husband’s Oscars outburst – and Kevin Hart announced his resignation as 2019 Oscars presenter.
In addition, a number of projects in development by Smith are now uncertain. In Bad Boys 4, Bright 2, and Apple’s Emancipation, he portrays a fugitive slave.
Waxman states, “Apple’s decision on this film will be a significant indicator of how degraded Will Smith’s reputation has become.”
“Everyone believed it would be released in the second half of the year and compete for awards next year, but we have no idea what Apple will do.
“If they decide to delay it, it’s a clear indication that they don’t want to compete with Will Smith this year,” the author explains.
He Will Star in A Fourth Bad Boys Film Alongside Martin Lawrence:
Even though the circumstances of their behavior differ, other Hollywood stars who have fallen from grace may provide insight into what is to come.
Johnny Depp was fired from the third Fantastic Beasts picture after losing a libel case involving a newspaper report that referred to him as a batterer of his wife. However, he retained his Christian Dior advertisements and a devoted fan base that has continued to back him at every turn.
He has also recently been cast as Louis XV in his first film since the libel trial, a French production.
Mel Gibson has been involved in multiple scandals, confessing a drunken anti-Semitic rant in 2006 and a racist tirade against his ex-girlfriend, who accused him of physical abuse, on tapes that were leaked in 2010.
In 2017, he was nominated for an Academy Award. He was eventually welcomed back by Hollywood.
Smith’s career may be damaged, but it is not necessarily over if he can reconcile with Hollywood. Sunday’s conclusion of his acceptance speech was, “I hope the Academy invites me back.”
What Prompted Will Smith to Strike Chris Rock?
It is unlikely that he will be asked to present the award for best actress at the 2023 Oscars, as the preceding year’s best actor winner normally does. However, it is unlikely that he will have to return the golden statuette he won on Sunday.
In 2017, Oscars organizers adopted a revised code of conduct in response to the #MeToo movement. Harvey Weinstein and Roman Polanski were expelled from the Academy, yet their Oscars were not taken from them.
Whoopi Goldberg, one of three governors of the Academy’s acting division and a former event host, stated last week, “We’re not going to take that Oscar away from him.
“I’m sure there will be consequences, but I don’t believe that’s what they’ll do, especially because Chris [Rock] said, ‘Listen, I’m not bringing charges.'”
“Absurd and inexcusable”
Police did not arrest Smith after consulting Rock on the night in question, but they have stated they may file a report if the comedian changes his mind in the future.
Last Friday, the Academy initiated disciplinary proceedings against Smith, with expulsion and suspension as possible sanctions. On Friday, though, Smith took matters into his own hands by resigning his membership.
Despite this, Academy administrators stated that disciplinary proceedings will continue and that they will debate further action on April 18.
The actor intimated in his resignation letter that he wants to move on, stating that he is “dedicated to completing the work to ensure that I never again permit violence to triumph over reason.” He acknowledged how “shocked, devastating, and unforgivable” his acts had been.
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