Apple has a Will Smith problem of Oscar proportions

After the infamous limp by Will Smith, Apple has a problem. A $100 millionproblem. A problem that may well kill the best drama film of 2023.

Will Smith single-handedly saved the Oscars. After years of imploding viewingfigures, all eyes were suddenly on the ceremony again last March. Or, atleast, in a short but very juicy fragment.

Will Smith and the limp

Then of course we are talking about the moment when Smith killed his career.The all-rounder, the beloved rapper, actor and producer who recently publisheda book about his life. After Chris Rock made a spicy joke about his wife, thex-year-old actor stormed the stage to give the same comedian a bitchclap tosell a lot.

The rest is anything but history. Studio after studio scrapped plannedprojects with Will Smith, but the decision was not always that simple. afuture blockbuster deleting it is one thing, but what do you do when yourvery expensive project with the actor has already been filmed?

Apple’s 100 Million Problem

That’s exactly the problem Apple has right now. The tech giant has been tryingto build a reputation in Hollywood for several years through prestigiousprojects for the streaming service Apple TV+.

At the beginning of this year, the shooting was completed for such a type ofproject: Emancipation. An Apple historical thriller with a budget of 100million dollars.

The film is based on the true story of an escaped enslaved named Gordon.Photographs of his bare back, severely flogged by an overseer’s lashes, werepublished worldwide in 1863, giving the abolitionist movement evidence of thebrutality of American slavery.

Fans fall over striking detail of Will Smith apologyvideoWill Smith inhis apology video (Image: Will Smith @ YouTube)

Oscars candidate

So we’re not talking about a light-hearted superhero movie or other popcornmaterial. Emancipation is a momentous project with which Apple is alreadypreparing for an Oscar.

And who will receive that Oscar? Exactly, Will Smith. He is in fact the bigstar of the very expensive project, which incidentally is only the only filmthat is on his schedule. Apple even hoped for a second Best Actor -Oscar forSmith in a row with Emancipation until the same Smith threw a spanner in theworks during the Oscars.

So the big question is: what do you do then? We are now almost half a yearlater, and Will Smith has already apologized extensively in a controversialvideo on YouTube. Apologies that Chris Rock only seems to take it halfseriously.

Devil’s Dilemma

Can Smith get off the bench and Apple can rest assured starpower use topromote the film? Or is Smith off for good and can Apple Emancipation betterleave it on the shelf? That’s not really an option either. The New York Timeshas devoted an intriguing article to this diabolical dilemma.

The Hollywood Reporter journalist Stephen Galloway calls it a lose-losesituation : “If they delay the film, will that damage Apple’s reputation? Ifthey release it, will it damage their reputation? Hollywood loves a win-winsituation. This one is lose-lose.”

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Bygone Opportunities

The initial controversy is bound to draw more attention to the film, butthat’s short-term. That Oscars hope? Apple can give that up, according toStephen Gilula, former president of Fox Searchlight:

“Regardless of the quality of the film, all the press, all the reviewers, allthe feature film writers and all the price predictors will look at it and talkabout the limp. There is a very high risk that the film will not be judgedon its own merits.”

It shouldn’t play a role, the Oscars are, of course, about the moviesthemselves. But the ceremony and process behind it are anything butscientific. Elderly judges who vote for an animated film because theirgrandson liked it, without having seen the film in question. That kind ofpractice.

On to 2023

For now, Apple still has some time to make a decision. Emancipation isscheduled for 2023. The tech giant has not been more specific than that, butat some point Tim Cook and Co. yet to hit the button.

To be continued without a doubt!