Will Smith Wins Best Actor at Oscars After Assaulting Chris Rock on Stage
Will Smith stunned the audience by approaching the stage and slapping presenter Chris Rock after the comedian made a joke about Smith’s wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock took the stage at the Oscars to present the award for best documentary.
Chris began by making jokes about members of the audience, including Pinkett Smith, whom he referred to as “G.I. Jane” because of her closely cropped hair. Pinkett Smith has previously spoken about her battle with alopecia. Smith walked to the stage shortly after Rock made the joke and slapped the comedian. “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” he yelled as he returned to his seat.
It was unclear if the assault was a planned gag when watching the first telecast. However, the show’s audio cut out immediately after Smith slapped Rock and remained muted as Rock said, “Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me,” as Smith walked away. Rock, still on stage, appeared stunned when Smith yelled from his seat. “Wow, dude,” replied Rock. “It was a G.I. Jane joke.”
Rock then handed over the documentary award to Summer of Soul director Questlove. Following that, Sean “Diddy” Combs took the stage to introduce a clip montage commemorating The Godfather’s 50th anniversary. “I had no idea this year would be the most exciting Oscars ever!” he exclaimed.
“All right, Will, Chris—we’re going to solve that as a family. But for the time being, we’re moving forward with love.” Questlove declined to comment on the altercation in the press room. Reporters in the press room were also told they couldn’t ask questions about other show parts, presumably to avoid further questions about the slap.
According to Vanity Fair’s Rebecca Ford, Denzel Washington pulled Smith to the side for a conversation after the exchange, kneeling alongside Pinkett Smith when the show returned from the commercial break. During the commercial break, Tyler Perry joined Washington and Smith. According to Ford, the Smiths held hands in their seats for the rest of the show after the assault.
An Academy librarian confirmed to V.F.’s Joy Press that this was most likely the first time actual violence had occurred onstage at the ceremony. This was not. However, Rock’s first time making a joke about Pinkett Smith at the Oscars. During the 2016 ceremony, which Rock hosted, he made fun of Pinkett Smith’s boycott of the event. “Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s pants,” said Rock. “I didn’t get invited.”
However, this was not the first time Rock and Smith had crossed paths during the Oscar season. Rock was on hand to present an award to Paul Thomas Anderson at the National Board of Review gala in mid-March. He did, however, take a moment to compliment Smith, another winner that night, on his performance in King Richard. “Goddammit, Will,” Rock exclaimed, praising the actor’s performance.
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After the incident, Rock downplayed his violent encounter with Smith backstage at the Oscars. One witness told V.F.’s Anthony Breznican that Rock referred to Smith’s portrayal of Muhammad Ali in the Oscar-nominated biopic about the late boxer. “That’s the only time you get hit by Muhammad Ali and it doesn’t leave a scratch,” allegedly said Rock.
Smith was in attendance at this year’s Academy Awards to accept the best-actor award for his work in King Richard. For months, the actor was regarded as the front-runner, and he triumphed as expected on Sunday night. Smith compared himself to Richard Williams, a man known as “a fierce defender of his family,” in his tear-filled speech.
“I know you have to be able to take abuse to do what we do,” he said. “You have to be able to have people disrespect you, and you have to smile and pretend like it’s okay.”… They said I looked like the crazy father…. “Love will drive you insane.” He ended his speech by apologizing to both the Academy and his fellow nominees. “I’m hoping the Academy will invite me back,” Smith said.
Amy Schumer, the show’s cohost, made a quick remark about Rock and Smith after a commercial break. “I’ve been taking off my Spider-Man costume. Did I miss anything?” she asked, as the audience, including Smith, laughed. “It’s like there’s a different vibe in here. Most likely not. So, anyway—okay.”
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