While presenting the award for Best Documentary at the 94th Academy Awards, Chris Rock proved that some jokes aren’t worth making.
During his performance, Rock made a joke at the expense of Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, resulting in an on-stage altercation that drew gasps from the audience.
“Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see it,” Rock said concerning Pinkett Smith’s appearance.
Will Smith seemed to be laughing following Rock’s comment, but you can see from the video, Jada was not impressed. Will then stunned the audience by walking onto the stage and slapping Rock in the face. “Wow,” said Rock afterwards. “Will Smith just smacked the s**t out of me.”
Smith returned to his seat and told Rock, “Keep my wife’s name out your f***king mouth.”
“Wow, dude. It was a G.I. Jane joke,” replied Rock.
“Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth,” Smith repeated whilst the audience looked on in silence.
Jada Pinkett Smith’s appearance is due to the autoimmune disease alopecia, which attacks the hair follicles and causes hair loss. She has made public statements about her battle with alopecia.
Rock has to be credited for his professionalism as he soldiered on after the incident. During the commercial break, he approached the Smiths, possibly to apologise.
Following the moment in which Will Smith seemingly slapped Chris Rock at the #Oscars, Smith is comforted by Tyler Perry and Denzel Washington. He appears to wipe away tears before rejoining his wife pic.twitter.com/TyXPQe1WGY— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) March 28, 2022
Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry also spoke with Will Smith during the break. Watch the video above.
Shortly after presenter P, Diddy said, “Will, Chris, we are gonna solve that like a family at the gold party. For now, we will move on with love.”
You could be forgiven for thinking the moment was scripted given that Smith, who was nominated for his role in Warner Bros.’ sports drama King Richard, returned to the stage to receive the award for Best Actor. He received a standing ovation from the crowd.
When Smith returned to claim the prize for Best Actor, he addressed the incident with Rock with an apology. Through tears, he said, “I want to apologise to The Academy; I want to apologise to all of my fellow nominees. I hope the Academy invites me back.” He did not apologise on stage to Chris Rock.
He did allude to the incident by speaking about Richard Williams —the father of tennis sensations Venus and Serena, whom he portrayed in King Richard and the way he defended his family.
Accepting his award, Smith said: “Ah man. 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 to be in this world.”
He went on to talk about “protecting” the young actresses in the film, Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton. Calling them “the strongest and most delicate people I’ve ever met”, he went on: “I’m being called on to love and 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 smile and be like ‘That’s OK’.
“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 pretend like that’s okay,” he added. “Denzel said to me a few moments ago, he said to me, ‘At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you.’ But I want to be a vessel for love.”
The Academy later tweeted: “The Academy does not condone violence of any form”.
No doubt there will be many think pieces on the subject of toxic masculinity and violence in the days to come.