Actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock during the 94th Academy Awards 2022, on Sunday, after the latter made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, actor and Smith’s wife, being in GI Jane 2 because of her shaved head.
“Jada, I love you. GI Jane 2, can’t wait to see it, all right?” said Rock referring to Pinkett’s shaved head.
Smith, who later won the Best Actor Oscar for his role in King Richard, walked up to the stage, struck Rock across the face, and then returned to his seat without saying a word. After sitting down, he told Rock to leave his wife Pinkett alone, to which the comedian said he was just making a “GI Jane” joke.
However, Smith once again shouted, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.” Rock then said he was “going to” and concluded the tiff by saying, “That was the greatest night in the history of television.”
Back in 2018, Pinkett had revealed that she was diagnosed with alopecia areata, a condition that causes sudden loss of hair. Since then, she has often discussed the challenges and struggles of hair loss on several social media platforms.
“I want to apologise to the Academy. I want to apologise to all my fellow nominees,” said Smith, tearing up during his acceptance speech.
Smith drew a parallel between what happened at the event with him and his role in King Richard as the father of tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams. “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 (his co-star), who is one of the strongest, most delicate people I’ve ever met. I got to protect Saniyya [Sidney] and Demi [Singleton], the two actresses that played Venus and Serena.”
“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’ve got to be able to take abuse. You’ve got to be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business you’ve got to be able to have people disrespecting you. And you’ve got to smile and you’ve got to pretend like that’s okay. Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams.”
Smith also extended his gratitude towards actor Denzel Washington, who comforted him, along with actor Tyler Perry, during the commercial break following the tiff. “Thank you, D. Denzel said a few minutes ago, ‘At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you,’” Smith said.
The Los Angeles Police Department later confirmed to Variety that Rock had “declined to file a police report” against Smith.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also issued a statement on the incident, stating that it “does not condone violence of any form.”