Professor Agnes Scott, author of ‘Deconstructing Will Smith’, predicts the slap won’t hurt her career

He noted in his book that during a red carpet event for “Men in Black III” in 2012, Ukrainian journalist-turned-prankster Vitalii Sediuk tried to hug and kiss Smith in Moscow. Smith pushed him away and walked away momentarily, then turned around, came back and slapped Sediuk in the face.

“It was the same kind of delayed reaction that happened at the Oscars,” Tolliver said.

The Ukrainian journalist, trying to kiss Smith, was referring to a time in the early 1990s when Smith refused to kiss another man in character from the movie “Six Degrees of Separation.”

“He never experienced that and the journalist [who was later fired for other similar stunts with other celebrities] was deliberately trying to provoke him,” Tolliver said.

He said Smith was not at all reckless or reactive either way. The Oscar slap, he said, “felt terribly performative to me. It seemed intentional… Will Smith spent his career creating a certain persona for the public and something slipped and the real person was momentarily revealed.

He said that Smith, in his acceptance speech, tried to “reduce” his own personality by defending the honor of his wife Jada Pinkett Smith over Rock’s joke with Williams defending his family against the establishment of white tennis as well as the skeptics of his neighborhood in Compton.

“Will Smith does kind of a game that reminds you of who he is,” Tolliver said. “In this film, I found him almost unrecognizable. He really disappeared into character. I found it interesting that he used this moment to connect him and Richard.

Smith, 53, has tried to convey a certain type of old-school masculinity over the years in films ranging from ‘Bad Boys’ and ‘Men in Black’ to ‘I Am Legend’ to ‘I, Robot’. from “Hancock” to “Suicide Squad”. In three decades, it has built a wide worldwide popularity that few have equaled in terms of box office success. According to the numbershis 29 films as a lead actor have grossed over $6.5 billion in box office revenue worldwide, ranking him ninth all-time.

“I spend the book explaining her appeal and how her movie choices shaped her personality,” Tolliver said. “He managed to know his audience and meet their expectations.”

Tolliver said that Smith, at this point in his life, “has achieved a kind of autonomy from his profile and his reputation. People like him feel like they’re invincible, that they can do anything. of transgressive.

Smith has also recently taken on more socially conscious roles. After “King Richard”, he shot “Emancipation”, a film which will be released later this year and based on a true story where he plays a slave named Peter who escapes from a plantation in Louisiana, thwarts blood hunters -cold and joined the Union Army. The film was originally slated to shoot in Georgia, but moved to Louisiana after the state passed restrictive election laws. which many opponents considered anti-black.

“He’s not chasing success for himself anymore,” Tolliver said. “The Oscar is a vindication for him. It can only give him confidence to move on and take even more risks.

Tolliver said he struggled to find a way to finish his book on Smith until the 2019 film “Gemini Man” came along, where Smith plays a retired hitman targeted by a cloned version much younger himself.

“I thought it was a perfect metaphor,” he said. “A younger version of Will chasing Will. He can’t go back and be that young action hero anymore.

Lola R. McClure