Will Smith personally paid extras who played dead bodies on the ground in new film 'Emancipation'.

The upcoming movie's director Antoine Fuqua has heaped praise on the 54-year-old actor and hailed him as the "nicest person he's ever met", particularly with the way he treated the extras who found themselves lying around in extreme heat as part of the shoot.

He told Vanity Fair magazine: "He was kind to everyone on the set. Will would go around and hug and shake hands - we had 300-something extras and military. Marines.

"He's funny. He's fun. We had certain extras that were the dead bodies in the graves, and he would go give them money for laying there in that heat over 100 degrees.

"I have nothing but amazing things to say about Will Smith, really genuinely. You can ask anybody that worked on the movie, they'll tell you the same. Nicest person I've ever met in my life."

The movie - which follows a man who escapes slavery - was filmed before Will hit Chris Rock after the comedian made a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith at this year's Oscars.

Fuqua has defended the decision to still release the film, describing the project as a whole as "more important than one bad moment" and noting there was never a conversation "about the movie not coming out".

He added: "Of course I wanted people to see the film. My conversation was always, 'Isn't 400 years of slavery, of brutality, more important than one bad moment?' "

Last month, Will blamed being "fogged out" and "fuzzy" for not saying sorry to Chris at the time.

The Hollywood star resigned from the Academy in the wake of the row and was subsequently banned from the Oscars and all of the organisation's events for the next decade.

Will said: "I’ve reached out to Chris and the message that came back is that he’s not ready to talk ... when he is, he will reach out. So I will say to you, Chris, I apologise to you.

"My behaviour was unacceptable and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk."

Will also apologised to Chris' mother and his entire family.

The movie star - who won the Best Actor gong at the Oscars for his performance in 'King Richard' - said: "I just didn’t realise how many people got hurt in that moment, so I want to apologise to Chris's mother. I want to apologise."