Will Smith really cares about his cast and crew.
In a new interview with Vanity Fair, “Emancipation” director Antoine Fuqua reveals that the film’s star personally paid extras on the set during tough shooting conditions.
The revelation came about as the filmmaker shared his immediate reaction to the incident earlier this year in which Smith slapped Chris Rock onstage at the Oscars.
“It hit me later. I was still having post-traumatic stress syndrome about being in the swamps of Louisiana,” Fuqua said. “People were calling me and texting me. I couldn’t deal with that — I was still dealing with the other thing. But it didn’t feel real to me at all, because I was with Will for two years and I haven’t met a nicer human being.”
Fuqua continued, “I’m being honest about it. He was kind to everyone on the set. Will would go around and hug and shake hands — we had 300-something extras and military. Marines. We had to stop Will from doing that because of COVID. He’s funny. He’s fun.”
The director then shared, “We had certain extras that were the dead bodies in the graves, and he would go give them money for laying there in that heat over 100 degrees.”
He also explained how Smith’s state of mind may have been affected by the difficulties of shooting “Emancipation” just before the Oscars.
“The movie was supposed to end in October, but we didn’t finish that movie until January because of a hurricane, the heat, COVID, a tornado, and 12 other things,” Fuqua explained. “It was just crazy, really. It’s really hard to release a character who’s been brutalized and called the N-word every day — constantly, every day — and still be the nicest person in the world. That, I know. So no excuses for anyone or anything, but I can say that he’s a good man and I hope that people can forgive him and that we can move forward.”
Finally, Fuqua shared his hope that Smith and Rock will reconcile in time.
“I hope Chris and Will find a way to sit together publicly, privately, whatever, and make amends. I think it would be an incredible statement,” he said.