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Norman Jewison and Lee Grant say that Sidney Poitier's famous slap scene 'echoed around the world'


In The Heat of the Night’s Norman Jewison and Lee Grant say that Sidney Poitier’s famous slap scene ‘echoed around the world’ following its release


Norman Jewison and Lee Grant reflected on the late Sidney Poitier’s slap scene in the 1967 feature In the Heat of the Night during an interview with People that was published on Saturday.

During the sit-down, the feature’s director and leading actress lauded the performer’s acting ability and professionalism while working on the feature.

The legendary actor passed away at his home in Los Angeles this past Thursday at the age of 94.

Looking back: Norman Jewison and Lee Grant reflected on the late Sidney Poitier's slap scene in the 1967 feature In the Heat of the Night during an interview with People that was published on Saturday

Looking back: Norman Jewison and Lee Grant reflected on the late Sidney Poitier’s slap scene in the 1967 feature In the Heat of the Night during an interview with People that was published on Saturday

In the feature, Poitier portrayed Philadelphia police detective Virgil Tibbs, who becomes involved with a murder investigation taking place in Mississippi.

During the much-lauded slap scene, Tibbs visited the residence of plantation owner Endicott, portrayed by Larry Gates, and asked him for any information he could provide regarding the case.

Endicott went on to showcase his racist tendencies and slapped the detective across the face after being questioned.

Tibbs quickly slapped the plantation owner back and left after his adversary made one last racist remark. 

Storyline: In the feature, Poitier portrayed Philadelphia police detective Virgil Tibbs, who becomes involved with a murder investigation taking place in Mississippi

Storyline: In the feature, Poitier portrayed Philadelphia police detective Virgil Tibbs, who becomes involved with a murder investigation taking place in Mississippi

In the film: During the much-lauded slap scene, Tibbs visited the residence of plantation owner Endicott, portrayed by Larry Gates, and asked him for any information he could provide regarding the case

In the film: During the much-lauded slap scene, Tibbs visited the residence of plantation owner Endicott, portrayed by Larry Gates, and asked him for any information he could provide regarding the case

He recalled telling the actor that he would have to ‘do it fast because it’s a total reaction. If you were back in Philadelphia, you wouldn’t accept it.’

The late performer was reportedly enthusiastic about the scene and replied: ‘Don’t worry, the scene will work, and it will be powerful.’

The retired director also spoke about the scene’s impact on former South African president Nelson Mandela, who reportedly became interested in the feature after the slap was censored in his country. 

Jewison noted that the politician found the scene and became interested in it ‘because he felt this would never happen in a film in South Africa.’ 

Direction: Jewison recalled telling the actor that he would have to 'do it fast because it's a total reaction. If you were back in Philadelphia, you wouldn't accept it'; he is seen in 2017

Direction: Jewison recalled telling the actor that he would have to ‘do it fast because it’s a total reaction. If you were back in Philadelphia, you wouldn’t accept it’; he is seen in 2017

The director pointed out that the scene became highly influential with viewers of the film regardless of their country of origin.

‘And I don’t know whether Sidney knew that, but anyway, I think that was when someone said it was kind of a slap that was echoed around the world,’ he said. 

He added: ‘And I think that’s one moment in the film that people remember.’ 

Grant went on to speak highly of the late actor and pointed out that his contributions to the film world were wide-reaching. 

Making an impact: The director pointed out that the scene became highly influential with viewers of the film regardless of their country of origin

Making an impact: The director pointed out that the scene became highly influential with viewers of the film regardless of their country of origin

‘He had a sense of morality that went through all of his films, and if you see the fellow Black actors who honored him, it was for being the first, for being the first to break the white bar,’ she said.

She also noted that ‘Sidney just was a hero…he was the first Black hero in the film world.’

The actress then mourned the loss of her former costar and expressed that he was a guiding light for many American performers.

‘I’ve lost a friend and America’s lost a symbol in a way because Sidney was so highly respected,’ she said. 

Highly influential: Grant went on to speak highly of the late actor and pointed out that his contributions to the film world were wide-reaching

Highly influential: Grant went on to speak highly of the late actor and pointed out that his contributions to the film world were wide-reaching

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