L.A, 2022-03-28 00:21:00. Will Smith hits Chris Rock on stage at the Oscars
When Will Smith stepped onto the Oscars stage and hit Chris Rock, the unpredictable moment was a raucous interruption to the Hollywood celebration.
But once Smith returned moments later to accept his first-ever Academy Award, he offered a tearful apology for an act that would almost certainly overshadow his historic feat. He took the opportunity during Sunday night’s awards show to talk about being a fierce defender just as his tennis dad character Richard Williams from “King Richard.”
Smith felt like the protector to many including his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, after Rock made a joke about her appearance that he didn’t sit right with him.
“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” Smith said as he began his acceptance speech after winning Best Actor. He subsequently apologized to several people – including tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, Richard Williams’ daughters – but did not mention Rock in his apology.
Smith then spoke about being a protector of those who worked with him on the film such as Aunjanue Ellis along with Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton, the actors who played Venus and Serena.
“I am called in my life to love people, protect people, and be a river for my people,” Smith said during his acceptance speech after winning his first Oscar. “I know that in order to do what we do, you have to be able to take offense. You have to be able to make people talk crazy about you. In this business, you have to be able to make people disrespect you and you have to smile and pretend that this is fine.”
The exchange began when Rock shot Pinkett Smith on the shaven head, saying, “Jada, I love you.” Ji Ae Jin 2, I can’t wait to see it, okay? Rock was referenced from the 1997 movie “GI Jane,” starring Demi Moore, who shaved her head to portray a fictional candidate for a Navy SEAL.
Pinkett Smith revealed in 2018 that she has alopecia areata. She often discusses hair loss challenges on Instagram and other social media platforms.
The joke was badly missed.
Smith walked onto the stage from his front-row seat and swung into Rock with his palms, delivering a loud slap. Smith returned to his seat and yelled for Rock to leave Pinkett Smith alone. Rock responded that he was making a “GI Jane” joke — and Smith yelled at him again.
“To keep my wife’s name out of your mouth (expletive)” Smith shouted at Rock, and the crowd fell silent when it turned out that this wasn’t really the case.
The moment shocked the Dolby Theater audience and viewers at home. At the commercial break, presenter Daniel Kaluuya came to hug Smith, and Denzel Washington accompanied him to the side of the stage. The two talked and hugged, and Tyler Perry came to talk as well.
Smith shared what Washington told him: “At the height of your moments, be careful because that’s when the devil comes for you.”
“I hope the Academy will invite me back,” Will Smith said, concluding his remarks on stage.
A representative for Rock did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
After the show, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released a statement saying that it “does not condone violence in any way.”
The Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement that it is aware of the incident.
“The incident involved slapping another person,” the statement said. “The person concerned refused to file a police report. If the party involved wishes to report the police at a later time, the Los Angeles Police Department will be available to complete the investigation report.”
“That was the greatest night in television history,” Rock said before resuming his role as presenter.
A few minutes later, rapper Sean Combs—on stage to pay a tribute to “The Godfather”—tried to play the peacemaker and suggested Smith and Rock settle their differences at the post-Oscars party.
“Will and Chris, we’re going to dissolve that like family at a party of gold,” Combs said.
The echoes didn’t stop there. Several people contacted Smith and Pinkett Smith in the commercial breaks that followed; Keith Urban hugged Smith during one stop on the show, and Nicole Kidman also went on to say a few words, too.
Behind the scenes, during interview sessions with the winners, the Rock-Smith incident seemed like something few – if any – wanted to discuss.
“I’m not talking about it,” said Ahmeir “Questloff” Thompson, director of the Oscar-winning Best Documentary Feature film “Summer of Soul.”
The confrontation overshadowed Smith’s historic achievement. He was previously nominated twice for Best Actor, for his roles in Ali in 2002 and The Pursuit of Happiness in 2007. In these two films, he portrayed real-life characters: boxing legend Muhammad Ali and Chris Garner, a homeless salesman. .
This time, Smith beat out a formidable competition including Andrew Garfield, Javier Bardem, Benedict Cumberbatch and Denzel Washington – who won his first and only Academy Award for Best Actor in 2002 over Smith for “Training Day.”
Pinkett Smith was also the subject of jokes from The Rock when he hosted the Academy Awards in 2016. She did not attend the Academy Awards that year, saying at the time that her decision stemmed from the lack of diversity among the award nominees and how black artists were not properly represented. .
“I think sometimes we have to remember, at some point, everybody breaks down,” TV personality Karamo Brown said. “But I think these two guys are really going to get together, and figure it out, like saying ‘Okay, that’s enough, I’m sorry.’ … I wasn’t in that situation. I didn’t condone violence or anything like that, but I can also understand Protect the ones you love.”
AP Film Writer Lindsey Barr contributed to this report.
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