While Will Smith waits to find out what action the Academy will take over his slapping Chris Rock for joking about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair, others wait to see what the impact might be on the new Oscar winner’s career. At least one of his co-stars has said he won’t work with him again.
Paul Rodriguez, comedian and actor, claims that he witnessed Smith’s fury on set of 2001’s film “Ali.” Smith packed on 35 pounds of muscle to play the boxing legend. His transformation into Muhammad Ali was his first Oscar nomination.
“When he turned around [after the slap] — that smug, that look like that. I’ve seen that look before. I feel like I got slapped everyday with the verbal abuse,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez says Smith became real during filming “Jekyll and Hyde.”
“I’d be walking around and he would hurl some insult. You know, I just kept it in. What am I going to do?” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez was cast as Muhammed Ali’s boxing ring physician Dr. Ferdie Pacheco — a role he traveled all the way to Africa to perform for the rumble in the jungle scenes.
Rodriguez said that Rodriguez saw the real-life physician on set and that was when things turned sour. Rodriguez claims that the doctor complained that his character didn’t have enough responsibilities. Rodriguez alleges that Will Smith was made to feel racially abused by the doctor.
Rodriguez claimed Smith then took his anger out on him.
“Will Smith says, ‘You better be careful. You’re far away from anyone who likes you.’ I go, ‘Where does that come from? What do you mean I’m far away?’ He goes, ‘Ain’t no Mexicans here in Africa.’ I said, ‘What?’” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez kept even a journal of his traumatic experiences.
“The insults just continue — that look of impunity. And I’m saying to myself, it went from one of the happiest moments of my life to a horrible situation,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez’s scripted role was cut, and he was basically reduced to that of an extra.
“I had lines. I didn’t audition to be an extra here. It was humiliating,” Rodriguez said.