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Has Will Smith Finally Been Forgiven?

Has Will Smith Finally Been Forgiven?


  • The infamous Oscars slap overshadowed Will Smith’s career slump, but
    Bad Boys: Ride or Die
    proves his enduring appeal.
  • Despite controversies, Smith remains a top earner in Hollywood, with
    Bad Boys
    opening strong at the box office.
  • Smith is set for a comeback with potential sequels, showcasing his unique ability to tap into successful cinematic properties.

There was little suspense at the 2022 Academy Awards ceremony regarding whether Will Smith would win his long-awaited first Oscar for his acclaimed titular performance in the biographical sports drama film King Richard. Smith, who had been nominated twice previously, was the heavy favorite. Of course, the biggest surprise to occur on this night happened before he was declared the Best Actor winner when he unexpectedly left his seat and walked onto the stage to slap host Chris Rock after Rock joked about the baldness of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who shaved her head after being diagnosed with the autoimmune disease alopecia areata.

What should have been the highlight of his career was completely overshadowed by the slap, which continues to define his public image more than two years later. The immediate backlash to the Oscars slap was evident with the release of his next film, the 2022 historical action thriller Emancipation, which was completely overshadowed by the slap controversy.

While Emancipation was released via streaming after receiving a token theatrical release, Smith’s first major theatrical release since the Oscars slap is Bad Boys: Ride or Die, the fourth installment of the Bad Boys film series, which brought Smith film stardom in 1995 with the release of the first Bad Boys film and is now being counted on to remind audiences of just how much fun he was to watch before the slap.

Will Smith Needs a Box-Office Hit

Bad Boys Ride or Die poster

Bad Boys: Ride or Die


Bad Boys: Ride or Die is the fourth installment in the action-comedy film series starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. The series centers on hard-boiled Miami detectives Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett, who take on dangerous drug kingpins and thwart dangerous schemes as they attempt to stop the circulation of illicit drugs in their city. This time, Miami’s finest are the ones on the run.

Release Date
June 7, 2024

Read Our Review

While the 2022 Oscars slap, which is referenced in Bad Boys: Ride or Die, unquestionably tarnished Will Smith’s legacy, the controversy also took the focus away from the fact that he was previously in the midst of an extended career slump. Before the release of Bad Boys: Ride or Die, Smith hadn’t had a box-office hit in over four years since the 2020 release of the third installment in the Bad Boys film series, Bad Boys For Life, which grossed over $200 million domestically and became the highest-grossing film of 2020 at the domestic box office.


Bad Boys: Ride or Die’s Will Smith Says ‘It’s Nothing But Love’ from Fans

Smith is grateful to the supportive fans who showed up at the Bad Boys: Ride or Die premiere, despite the 2022 Oscars’ slap snafu.

Excluding the IP-driven films Aladdin and Suicide Squad, Smith hasn’t carried a film to box-office success since the 2012 release of Men in Black 3. His last non-franchise-driven hit was the 2008 superhero film Hancock, which grossed over $500 million at the worldwide box office, one of only three Smith films to do so since 2008. Meanwhile, box-office disappointments like After Earth, Collateral Beauty, Concussion, Focus, Gemini Man, and Seven Pounds raised serious questions about his continued box-office drawing power before the slap made everything else in his career seem at least immediately irrelevant.

The concerns over his box-office drawing power and public image are evident in the wildly divergent opening-weekend box-office projections for Bad Boys: Ride or Die, which was projected to gross between $30 million and $60 million in its opening weekend of domestic release, within a theatrical sector that’s desperate for an action-oriented hit, especially following the disappointing performance of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga.

Smith Remains One of Hollywood’s Highest-Paid Stars

Despite his shocking fall from grace, Will Smith has made more money since the Oscars slap than almost any other Hollywood star. In fact, the Oscars slap and preceding career slump have had seemingly no effect on his earning power, which is virtually unmatched in Hollywood history. For King Richard, Smith, as producer and star, received a whopping $40 million, more than what the film grossed at the worldwide box office. For his last film prior to Bad Boys: Ride or Die, Emancipation, he received $35 million as producer and star.



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While he was paid a reported acting salary of $25 million for Bad Boys: Ride or Die, Smith, who is also a producer on the film, stands to earn much more if the film, as expected, becomes a box-office success. Given that Bad Boys: Ride or Die grossed over $55 million at the domestic box office in its opening weekend of release, his earnings from the film will likely surpass the $40 million from King Richard. However, this pales in comparison to the $100 million that he received for starring in Men in Black 3.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die Proves That Smith Has Legendary Appeal

With its strong box-office opening, Bad Boys: Ride or Die, which has also been boosted by positive audience and critical reviews, is poised to easily become Will Smith’s 17th film to eclipse the $100 million mark at the domestic box office. Moreover, as the success of Bad Boys: Ride or Die clearly demonstrates the enduring affection audiences have for the Bad Boys film series and Smith, it also highlights how uniquely well-positioned he is to stage a successful career comeback, in terms of the number of valuable cinematic properties that he is able to tap into.

Indeed, while a fifth Bad Boys film seems to be a certainty, Smith is also planning to produce and star in a sequel to his hit 2007 thriller I Am Legend, titled I Am Legend 2, in which he will purportedly star alongside Michael B. Jordan, despite the fact that his character, Robert Neville, dies in the theatrical version of I Am Legend.

While the Oscars slap will likely always be an indelible part of his legacy, the enthusiastic reception that he has received for his performance in Bad Boys: Ride or Die proves that he has retained the rare power to make audiences forget their own problems and forgive Smith’s. Bad Boys: Ride or Die is playing in theaters now.

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