Will Smith hit Chris Rock on stage at the Oscars after the comedian made a joke about the actor’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
“Sure, I can not wait to be on GI Jane 2,” he said in an apparent reference to his shaved hairstyle – which is the result of alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss.
Smith came on stage and beat Rock before returning to his seat, shouting, “Do not say my wife’s name in your [censuré] enclosed “.
Then he apologized on stage.
“I want to apologize to the academy. I want to apologize to all my co-nominees,” he said in his tearful best male thank-you speech.
The star received the first Oscar of his career for playing the father of tennis legend Venus and Serena Williams in King Richard. “Art mimics life. I look like a crazy dad, as they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you crazy. Things.”
Rock’s joke referred to the 1997 film GI Jane, in which Demi Moore played the title role with a shaved head.
The comedian looked stunned the day after the incident, but told the audience: “It was the best night in TV history.”
The Los Angeles Police Department later told Variety that Rock “refused to file a police report” after the incident.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hosts the Oscars, said on Twitter that it “does not tolerate any form of violence”.
By Steven McIntosh, Oscar Entertainment Journalist
Here at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, journalists reacted in astonishment to the quarrel between Smith and Rock. Reporters attended the traditional press conference behind the scenes, where the winners come to answer questions after giving their speeches.
But the attention suddenly shifted to our overhead screens and what was going on at the ceremony when it became clear that something serious was about to happen.
At first, it had seemed like a joke or some kind of stage play. Smith even seemed to laugh at first, after Rock said his wife looked like GI Jane.
Sure looked uncomfortable, but at this point it was still assumed that it was all part of some sort of pre-planned routine. Doubt began to ensue as Smith rose from his seat and hit Rock on stage. Of course, these two guys are movie and TV veterans, and they wanted to know how to get a fake slap on stage. Except, everyone started to think it did not look so fake.
When Smith sat down in his seat and shouted at Rock to “not say my wife’s name,” it was clear this was not a sketch. A professional like Smith should know that he should not drop the F-word on stage during a live TV show.
Viewers did not hear the swear words. ABC had cut the live broadcast to avoid offending viewers. Throughout the altercation, complete silence reigned in the winners’ room. The staff of the academy seemed as shocked as the journalists. “I thought they were doing a small act,” one told his colleague.
Rock, meanwhile, looked visibly shaken. But when he realized he had just written Oscar history, he took it easy and commented, “It was the best night in TV history.”
Like previous Oscars that were defined by their viral moments – such as Ellen’s group selfie or the 2017 best film winners’ shuffle – will now forever be the Oscars where Will Smith beat Chris Rock.
Pinkett Smith first opened up about her fight against hair loss in an episode of her Facebook chat show, Red Table Talk, in 2018.
She said: “I was having hair loss problems. And it was scary when it started.”
The Girls Trip star said she only suspected she had alopecia after “handfuls of hair” came loose under the shower.
“I was just like, ‘Oh my God, should I be bald?’ It was one of those times in my life where I was literally shaking with fear, “she explained. “That’s why I cut my hair, and that’s why I keep doing it.”
After the event, Rock handed out the award for best documentary, which is why he was on stage.
According to Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter, a tearful Smith had to be “pulled aside and comforted” by Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry during a commercial break.
Introducing the next episode, Sean “Diddy” Combs said, “Will and Chris, we need to address this as a family. For now, we’re moving forward with love.”
It was not the first time Rock had made a joke about Pinkett Smith at the Oscars. He hosted the 2016 event, despite being among the stars boycotting the ceremony due to the lack of diversity in the nominations.
That year he said, “Jada Pinkett Smith, who is boycotting the Oscars, is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties – I was not invited!”.
Other winners at Sunday’s ceremony included Jessica Chastain, who won Best Actress in a Leading Role for The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Jane Campion, who won Best Director for The Power of the Dog, and Apple TV’s Coda Film, which was named Best Picture.
Best Supporting Actress went to Ariana DeBose for West Side Story, while Troy Kotsur won Best Supporting Actor for Coda, which also received Best Adapted Screenplay.
The sci-fi epic Dune took home a total of six awards, including in the technical categories Best Visual Effects and Best Cinematography.
Will Smith’s best male acceptance speech in its entirety:
Richard Williams was a strong supporter of his family. At this point in my life, right now, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling me to do and be in this world. By making this film, I was able to protect Aunjanue Ellis, who is one of the strongest and most delicate people I have ever met. I had to protect Saniyya [Sidney] and half [Singleton]the two actresses who played Venus and Serena.
In my life I am called to love people, to protect them and to be a river for my people. I know that in order to do what we do, you must be able to take action. You need to be able to let people say anything about you. In this job, you need to be able to let people respect you and you need to smile, you need to act like everything is okay. What I liked was what Denzel did [Washington] said to me a moment ago, “When you’re on top, be careful, this is where the devil comes to pick you up”.
I want to be a guy for love. I want to say thank you to Venus and Serena and the entire Williams family for entrusting me with your story. That’s what I want to do. I want to be an ambassador for that kind of love, attention and concern.
I would like to apologize to the Academy. I would like to apologize to all my co-nominees. It’s a beautiful moment and I’m not crying over winning a prize. It’s not about winning a prize for me. It’s about being able to shed light on all these people – Tim [White, producteur] and Trevor [White, producteur] and Zach [Baylin, scénariste] and Saniyya and Demi and Aunjanue and the whole King Richard team, and Venus and Serena, the whole Williams family.
Art mimics life. I look like the crazy dad they said about Richard Williams. But love makes you do crazy things.
And my mom … many things right now are really complicated for me, but for my mom, she would not come out. She has her team of knitters she’s with in Philadelphia watching. To be able to love and take care of my mother, my family, my wife … I take too much time … Thank you for this honor. Thank you for this moment and thank you on behalf of Richard and Oracene and the entire Williams family. Thank you. I hope the Academy will invite me back. Thank you.