Will Smith stormed the Oscars stage and struck comedian Chris Rock across the face for joking about his wife, in a moment at Sunday’s gala that immediately went viral and left stunned viewers questioning if it had been scripted or genuine.
Rock, presenting the best documentary prize with a short comedy routine, had cracked a joke comparing Jada Pinkett Smith’s tightly cropped hair to Demi Moore’s appearance in the film “G.I. Jane” and suggesting she appear in a sequel.
Jada Pinkett Smith, suffers from alopecia, and publicly revealed her diagnosis in 2018.
As Jada eye-rolled, Will went up on stage.
The moment triggered awkward silence and confusion in the Dolby Theatre, Smith strode up to Rock and slapped him, before returning to his seat alongside Jada and shouting profanities.
“Keep my wife’s name out of your f*****g mouth,” yelled Smith, forcing the producers to bleep out several seconds of audio from the televised broadcast in the United States.
Rock told the audience, “Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me. It was a G.I. Jane joke. That was the greatest night in the history of television.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg, in attendance, a tearful Smith needed to be “pulled aside and comforted” by Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry during a commercial break
“Will and Chris, we’re going to solve that like family. Right now we’re moving on with love,” said Sean “Diddy” Combs, presenting the next section.
Viewers were confused about whether or not the altercation was a planned skit. It soon became clear that it wasn’t
In his emotional speech soon after, a tearful Will Smith apologised – although not directly to Chris Rock. ““I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees. This is a beautiful moment and 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,” he said, “Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams. Love will make you do crazy things.”
In a loaded speech, Will Smith said, “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do, you got to be able to take abuse. You got to be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business you got to be able to have people disrespecting you. And you got to smile and you got to pretend like that’s okay.”
Will Smith also revealed what fellow Best Actor nominee Denzel Washington told him in the commercial break after the altercation with Chris Rock. ““Thank you, Dee. Denzel said a few minutes ago, ‘At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you,’” Will Smith said.