Will Smith secured a Best Actor trophy at Sunday night’s Academy Awards – but it was another onstage moment that everyone is talking about.
Presenting Best Documentary, comedian Chris Rock teased married nominees Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz before setting his sights on Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. He made a joke about Pinkett Smith (who suffers from alopecia and was sporting a shaved head) starring in G.I. Jane 2. Though Smith was initially seen laughing at the joke, he abruptly strode onstage and slapped Rock.
“Wow. Wow. Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me,” said a visibly stunned Rock.
“Keep my wife’s name out of your f**king mouth,” Smith could be heard shouting back.
“Wow, dude. It was a G.I. Jane joke,” Rock responded, and Smith repeated the warning.
The sound was cut on the ABC feed, but other countries ran the segment unedited.
Here’s the moment Chris Rock made a “G.I. Jane 2” joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, prompting Will Smith to punch him and yell, “Leave my wife’s name out of your f–king mouth.” #Oscars pic.twitter.com/kHTZXI6kuL
— Variety (@Variety) March 28, 2022
VIA JAPANESE TELEVISION: The uncensored exchange between Will Smith and Chris Rock pic.twitter.com/j0Z184ZyXa
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) March 28, 2022
Behind the scenes footage showed Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry comforting Smith during the commercial break.
During the commercial break, Will Smith is pulled aside and comforted by Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry, who motion for him to brush it off. Will appears to wipe tears from his eyes as he sits back down with Jada, with Denzel comforting Jada and Will’s rep by his side. pic.twitter.com/uDGVnWrSS2
— Scott Feinberg (@ScottFeinberg) March 28, 2022
Minutes later, Smith took the stage again to accept the Best Actor award for his performance as Serena and Venus Williams’ father in King Richard. Visibly emotional, Smith addressed the incident in his speech, saying, “Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams.”
He added, “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.”
Smith apologized to the Academy, but did not address Rock. He said, “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.”
Before leaving the stage, Smith added, “Thank you. I hope the Academy invites me back.”
— Variety (@Variety) March 28, 2022
The reaction on Twitter was immediate, with many viewers commenting that Rock’s joke was in poor taste, and/or shocked by Smith’s response.
— Jim Bourg (@jimbourg) March 28, 2022
Because you don’t assault people for something they say. no matter how much you might want to. Especially when your reaction will ruin the most important moment in other filmmakers’ lives. https://t.co/TrtnhrQ0nM
— Eric Deggans at NPR (@Deggans) March 28, 2022
Please tell me I didn’t see what I just saw. Somebody please tell me that @willsmith was joking and it was part of the show when he just smacked @chrisrock on National Television. I’m begging y’all….please don’t tell me @willsmith would do something like that???
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) March 28, 2022
I think you can recognize that this is all entirely his own doing and also find it incredibly sad.
— Linda Holmes (@lindaholmes) March 28, 2022
Just saw the Will Smith slap. Anyone have a late night show I can borrow just for tomorrow?
— Conan O’Brien (@ConanOBrien) March 28, 2022
people are going to have so much to say about all that — which will no doubt be exhausting — but watching will smith process and apologize in real time was … astounding. my heart is still pounding #oscars
— Kathleen Newman-Bremang (@KathleenNB) March 28, 2022
Jane Campion wins Best Director for THE POWER OF THE DOG, a film that doesn’t speak to toxic masculinity as effectively as the fact that Will Smith is still in the audience after punching Chris Rock in the fucking face #Oscars
— Norm Wilner (@normwilner) March 28, 2022
Will Smith is not the one nor the Oscars the place
But folks been making jokes and digs and and snide oversights at Black women
At expect everyone to eat it…
and again not everybody thinks that’s funny .. or funny after all this time
— 🗽Sydette Cosmic Dreaded Gorgon 🇬🇾 (@Blackamazon) March 28, 2022
I don’t know kind of seems like Will Smith isn’t actually doing okay and neither is anyone else really so maybe this is capturing the national mood
— Molly Lambert 🦔 (@mollylambert) March 28, 2022
Will Smith has trained in boxing, karate, and hand to hand combat for many movies over his long career. He has a significant weight and height advantage on Rock. He is fit and connected that slap with form.
If he wanted to seriously injure that lil man, he would have. Stop it.
— dr. jenn m. jackson (@JennMJacksonPhD) March 28, 2022
Physical violence is never the answer. Will Smith was wrong. Some jokes are evil. Chris Rock was wrong. They both can be wrong.
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) March 28, 2022
While it’s no excuse for violence: We do need to have a serious conversation about how jokes about alopecia (what Will Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith has) and people’s medical conditions, are not fair. This nonsense needs to stop. It’s actually quite gross. #Oscars
— Naheed Dosani (@NaheedD) March 28, 2022
Sorry to say I do not remember a single winner because of that Will moment, my GOD
— Elamin Abdelmahmoud (@elamin88) March 28, 2022
And That’s How We Do It
— Jaden (@jaden) March 28, 2022