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Will Smith resigns from Academy over Chris Rock slap backlash

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Will Smith, facing possible expulsion or suspension after he assaulted Chris Rock during last Sunday’s Oscars telecast, has instead resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. The move comes as the actor is embroiled in the gravest crisis of his career and as the organization behind the Academy Awards has struggled in its attempts to deal with the fallout from the altercation. In a statement, Smith called his actions “shocking, painful and inexcusable” and said that he will accept any additional consequences that the Academy’s Board of Governors deems appropriate.

“The list of those I have hurt is long and includes Chris, his family, many of my dear friends and loved ones, all those in attendance, and global audiences at home,” Smith said. “I betrayed the trust of the Academy. I deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work. I am heartbroken.”

Smith also acknowledged that his actions overshadowed other winners at the 94th Academy Awards. “I want to put the focus back on those who deserve attention for their achievements and allow the Academy to get back to the incredible work it does to support creativity and artistry in film,” he stated, concluding with “change takes time and I am committed to doing the work to ensure that I never again allow violence to overtake reason.”

Academy president David Rubin replied to his resignation, saying in a statement, “We have received and accepted Mr. Will Smith’s immediate resignation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. We will continue to move forward with our disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith for violations of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, in advance of our next scheduled board meeting on April 18.”

During the ceremony, Smith charged the stage and struck Rock during the broadcast after Rock made a joke about the actor’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, likening her shaved head to the buzzcut sported by Demi Moore in “G.I. Jane.” Pinkett Smith suffers from hair loss due to alopecia.

The Academy later said it asked Smith to leave the ceremony and he refused. However, sources tell Variety that the organization’s leaders never formally requested he be ejected and producer Will Packer urged him to stay. During an appearance on GMA on Friday, Packer said that he said Smith should stay at the request of Rock — something Rock’s camp has denied.

It’s a very tangled narrative about what exactly went down behind the scenes. What is certain is that Smith ended up remaining at the Dolby Theatre, where he went on to win best actor for his performance in “King Richard.” In an emotional speech, Smith seemed to try to justify his actions by saying that his outburst was the result of the same protective instincts that led his character in the film, Richard Williams, to push his daughters, Venus and Serena Williams, to succeed in the world of tennis. His speech, initial failure to apologize to Rock and his decision to attend the Vanity Fair party following the awards did not sit well with some members of the Academy.

On Monday, Smith finally apologized to Rock, saying, “I was out of line and I was wrong.” He added that he reacted emotionally because “a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear.”

After initially offering up a statement that said it did not condone violence, the Academy followed up with two subsequent statements that more forcefully criticized Smith. On Wednesday, the group said Smith had violated the Academy’s standards of conduct and that he had 15 days to provide a written response explaining his actions. The organization said Smith faced suspension, expulsion or other sanctions.

MOVIES

How ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ passed $2 billion globally

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After six weeks of release, James Cameron’s blockbuster sequel ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ has surpassed $2 billion in global ticket sales. It’s the sixth film in history — and first in pandemic times — to cross the coveted milestone, joining an exclusive club that includes ‘Avatar’, ‘Avengers: Endgame’, ‘Titanic’, ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’, and ‘Avengers: Infinity War’.

The long-delayed sequel opened in December and remained hugely popular in the weeks since its release. Helping it to soar like the original, the release was boosted by Imax and 3D screens, as well as repeat customers across all ages and demographics, propelling ticket sales to dizzying heights. It is expected to continue, even if slowly, garnering brisk box office.

Disney, which holds the rights to ‘Avatar’ after acquiring 20th Century Fox in 2019, spent roughly $460 million to produce and promote ‘The Way of Water’, making it one of the most expensive films ever.

Cameron is responsible for three of the six highest-grossing movies of all time. He’s also the only director with three films to cross $2 billion. Notably, Zoe Saldaña, who plays Neytiri in the ‘Avatar’ series, has now starred in four of the six films to cross $2 billion. She also appears in both ‘Avengers: Endgame’ and ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, reprising her ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ role of Gamora.

‘The Way of Water’ has officially hit the lofty goal that Cameron set for himself prior to the film’s release. Before the sequel opened in theaters, he told GQ that ‘Avatar 2’ represents “the worst business case in movie history” because it needs to become one of the three or four top-grossing movies of all time to break even. (Analysts believe the film’s breakeven point was close to $1.5 billion, so ‘The Way of Water’ has already been in the black.) But in the coming days, it’ll take down the fourth- and fifth-biggest movies, ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ ($2.07 billion) and ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ ($2.04 billion), to achieve that feat.

The original ‘Avatar’, which debuted in theatres 13 years ago, remains the biggest movie of all time, with $2.9 billion.

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‘Avatar 2’ hits $1.4 billion after $86 million new year haul

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James Cameron’s ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ loomed large at the box office during the New Year’s holiday, generating a towering $86.3 million over the four-day weekend. Through New Year’s Day, the blockbuster sequel has grossed $444.4 million in North America and roughly $1.4 billion globally. It has been holding strong in the time since its release, dropping only 8% in its third weekend in theaters. Over the traditional three-day period, the movie brought in $66.8 million, which marks a 4% increase from its sophomore outing.

With its worldwide ticket sales, ‘Avatar 2’ stands as the 14th-highest global release in history, just ahead of ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2’. After only three weeks, it’s already primed to pass Paramount and Tom Cruise’s box office smash ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ ($1.488 billion) as the highest-grossing movie released in 2022.

‘Avatar 2’ is expected to remain a top draw throughout the month of January, which will be necessary to justify its massive price tag. Cameron estimated the $350 million-budgeted movie (not including at least $100 million in marketing fees) needs to generate roughly $2 billion to break even, though analysts believe the threshold to profitability is probably closer to $1.5 billion. As a plus, it looks to hit that benchmark in a matter of days.

The original ‘Avatar’ was released in 2009 and stands as the highest-grossing release in history with $2.97 billion worldwide. The follow-up film, which debuted 13 years later after many, many delays, will struggle to make that much money because the global box office hasn’t fully rebounded from the pandemic. Moreover, China, a major theatrical market, is experiencing a resurgence of COVID and Russia, another big territory, won’t have access to the film.

The film stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Stephen Lang and Sigourney Weaver, in the sequel which follows the Sully family as they head underwater to battle the elements and keep the Na’vi safe from humans.

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‘Deadpool 3’ might involve time travel – Hugh Jackman

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Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman reveals how Weapon X can appear in Marvel Studios’ Deadpool 3 despite the character dying at the end of 2017’s Logan. During an appearance on Sirius XM, the actor revealed how Wolverine will cross paths with Deadpool despite the former dying in 2017’s Logan. “All because of this device they have in the Marvel world of moving around timelines, now we can go back because you know it’s science,” Jackman said. “And so I don’t have to screw with the Logan timeline which was important to me and I think probably to the fans too.”

Jackman and his Deadpool 3 co-star Ryan Reynolds previously confirmed that the threequel would not touch Logan, which initially served as Jackman’s swan song for Wolverine. “Logan takes place in 2029,” Reynolds said at the time. “Totally separate thing. Logan died in Logan. Not touching that.” Deadpool 3 will mark Jackman’s tenth time playing Logan/Wolverine, with the film also serving as the character’s official Marvel Cinematic Universe debut.

Even with Jackman’s time travel reveal, there is still a lot about Deadpool 3 that Marvel Studios is keeping under wraps. However, Jackman has recently teased that Deadpool 3 will be a buddy cop comedy adventure film, explaining how he has always envisioned that type of movie for the two characters. “I went to a screening of Deadpool. I was 20 minutes in, and I was like, ‘Ah, damn it!’ All I kept seeing in my head was 48 Hrs. with Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy,” Jackman said. “So it’s been brewing for a long time. It just took me longer to get here.” Deadpool 3 director Shawn Levy has also confirmed that he and Reynolds are working hard on keeping the MCU’s “Deadpool raw, gritty, grounded in the ways that those movies have been and that all of us love.”

At the time of writing, Jackman and Reynolds remain the only X-Men actors officially confirmed to be reprising their roles for Deadpool 3. The movie is currently scheduled to open in theaters on Nov. 8, 2024, as the first film of Phase 6 of the MCU.

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