Image source: Myung Chun/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
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The slap heard 'round the world
Actor Will Smith — who would go on to win best actor during Sunday night's 94th Academy Awards — slapped comedian Chris Rock across the face during the evening show after Rock made a joke about Smith's wife's alopecia diagnosis.
Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, shared an emotionally charged video earlier this month detailing her struggle with alopecia — an autoimmune disorder that results in sporadic hair loss.
What happened during the show?
Rock, while presenting an Oscar for best documentary feature, joked about Pinkett Smith's condition, quipping that the star looked like she was gearing up to play in a nonexistent sequel to "G.I. Jane" — a film in which actress Demi Moore shaves her head bald.
"Jada, I love ya," he said. "'G.I. Jane 2,' can't wait to see it."
Following the joke, Smith could be seen making a beeline for the stage and slapping Rock across the face.
A stunned Rock simply stood there as Smith exited the stage.
After a moment, the comedian composed himself and said, "Oh wow. Wow. Will Smith just smacked the s*** out of me."
Smith, by this time in his seat, then screamed at Rock, "Keep my wife's name out your f***ing mouth!"
Rock answered, "Wow, dude! It was a 'G.I. Jane' joke!"
Smith fired back once more, "Keep my wife's name out your f***ing mouth!"
Rock conceded and said, "I'm going to, OK?"
(Content warning: Rough language):
VIA JAPANESE TELEVISION: The uncensored exchange between Will Smith and Chris Rockpic.twitter.com/j0Z184ZyXa— Timothy Burke (@Timothy Burke) 1648434735
Smith wins best actor — and addresses the slap in acceptance speech
Smith addressed the incident during his best actor acceptance speech for his role in "King Richard," in which he portrayed Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena Williams.
The audience gave the emotional-looking Smith a standing ovation as he took the stage to accept his award.
He began his acceptance speech by saying, "Oh man. Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family. In this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world."
"Making this film, I got to protect Aunjanue Ellis, who is one of the most strongest, most delicate people I’ve ever met," he continued. "I got to protect Saniyya [Sidney] and Demi [Singleton], the two actresses that played Venus and Serena [Williams]. I'm being called on in my life to love people, and to protect people, and to be a river to my people."
Smith added, "Now I know that to do what we do, you gotta be able to take abuse, you gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you in this business, you’ve got to be able to have people disrespecting you. You’ve got to smile and pretend like that’s OK. But Richard Williams, and what I loved ... thank you, D. Denzel [Washington] said to me a few minutes ago, he said, 'At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you.'"
"It’s like, I want to be a vessel for love," an openly weeping Smith continued. "I want to say thank you to Venus and Serena, I just hope they didn't see that on TV. I want to say thank you to Venus and Serena and the entire Williams family for trusting me with your story. That’s what I want to do — I want to be an ambassador for that kind of love and care and concern."
Image source: Twitter video screeenshot
He then went on to issue an apology to the Academy and to his fellow nominees — notably excluding Rock from the moment.
"I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees," he said. "This is a beautiful moment, and I'm not, I'm not crying for winning an award. It’s not about winning an award for me, it’s about being able to shine a light on all of the people. Tim and Trevor and Zach and Saniyya and Demi and Aunjanue, and the entire cast and crew of 'King Richard,' and Venus and Serena, the entire Williams family. Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said. I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams. Love will make you do crazy things. To my mother, this moment is really complicated for me, but to my mother, she didn't want to come out; she had her knitting friends. She has a knitting crew that she’s in Philly watching with. Being able to love and care for my mother, my family, my wife, I’m taking up too much time."
He concluded, "Thank you for this honor, thank you for moment. I thank you on behalf of Richard and Oracene [Williams] and the entire Williams family. Thank you, I hope the Academy invites me back. Thank you."
Here's Will Smith's tearful acceptance speech at the #Oscars. https://bit.ly/3JNjjaq\u00a0pic.twitter.com/Uq2krBbBld— Variety (@Variety) 1648438100
What else is there to know about this?
The Academy issued a
statement in reference to Smith's on-stage antics later that evening.
The statement read, "The Academy does not condone violence of any form. Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Awards winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world."
'The individual involved has declined to file a police report'
The Los Angeles Police Department also issued a statement on the matter, announcing that Rock had declined to press charges against Smith.
"LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program. The incident involved one individual slapping another," the statement read. "The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report."
Official LAPD statement on the Will Smith x Chris Rock incident:\n\n"The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report."pic.twitter.com/cgzD9UPUlF— Tony \u2022 GMA (@Tony \u2022 GMA) 1648440824
A spotty history
During 2016's Academy Awards, Rock made another joke at the expense of Pinkett Smith, who at the time was boycotting the awards ceremony to protest what she said was a lack of racially and culturally diverse nominees.
"Jada got mad, said she’s not coming," Rock said at the time. "Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited. You get mad. It’s not fair that Will was this good and didn’t get nominated. It’s also not fair that Will was paid $20 million for ‘Wild Wild West.’"
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