Will Smith has paid an emotional tribute to the late actor Sidney Poitier, two days after his passing. The Bahamian-American actor, who became a Hollywood pioneer as the first Black man to win the Oscar for Best Actor, died on Friday at the age of 94.
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Will took to social media to praise the "icon, legend, visionary, and true pioneer", and thanked him for "breaking down barriers, creating the path and making it possible for there to be a Will Smith!"
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"Your legacy is eternal. Rest In Power," Will concluded.
Alongside the statement, Will shared two pictures of the men together, and fans were quick to share their own heartbreak and thank Will for his words and images.
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"These photos are beautiful," shared one fan as another added: "A true talent and a true gentleman."
"Such an icon. Will be missed. At least we have his movies to look back on," recalled a follower.
Will shared this tribute
The Bahamian foreign minister announced Sidney's passing on Friday 7 January. In 1963 he became the first Black actor to win a Best Actor Oscar for Lilies of the Field; he also received a Grammy Award, two Golden Globe Awards, and a BAFTA throughout his career.
He was an integral voice in the civil right movement, but his films - including In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner - were criticized at the time for featuring idealized black characters who had no personality.
The actor later shared that he had always wanted to take on more varied roles but was keen to challenge stereotypes in the media at the time of black men; "I felt very much as if I were representing 15, 18 million people with every move I made," he once wrote.
By the early 1970s he became involved more in Bahamian politics and later formed his own production company with other stars, including Paul Newman and Barbra Streisand.
He was the first black man to win an Oscar for best actor
Viola Davis led the tributes with a heartfelt statement which read: "This is a big one. No words can describe how your work radically shifted my life. The dignity, normalcy, strength, excellence and sheer electricity you brought to your roles showed us that we, as Black folks, mattered!!"
"For me, the greatest of the 'Great Trees' has fallen: Sidney Poitier," Oprah Winfrey penned.
"My honor to have loved him as a mentor. Friend. Brother. Confidant. Wisdom teacher. The utmost, highest regard and praise for his most magnificent, gracious, eloquent life. I treasured him. I adored him. He had an enormous soul I will forever cherish."
Sidney in Guess Who's Coming To Dinner
Whoopi Goldberg also took to social media to pay her respects, writing: "Sir Sidney Poitier R.I.P. He showed us how to reach for the stars."
President Joe Biden paid tribute, writing: "With unflinching grandeur and poise – his singular warmth, depth, and stature on-screen – Sidney helped open the hearts of millions and changed the way America saw itself."
Former President Barack Obama called him "a singular talent who epitomized dignity and grace".
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