In the first instance of on stage violence to ever occur in the history of The Oscars, newly-crowned Best Actor-winner Will Smith has physically assaulted comedian Chris Rock at the 2022 ceremony over a joke regarding the bald appearance of the actor’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
Taking the stage to present the award for Best Documentary, Rock, as most on-stage personalities do, attempted to ‘work the crowd’ by giving light-hearted ribbings to some of the attendees.
Catching a glimpse of Pinkett Smith, Rock commented on the actress’ bald appearance – a side-effect of her ongoing battle with alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that features hair loss as a side effect – and compared her to Demi Moore’s shaven-head look in the 1997 film G.I. Jane.
“’Jada I love you, ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it,” said Rock.
Realizing the joke failed to land he self-deprecatingly added, ““That was a nice one!”
As Pinkett Smith rolled her eyes in response to Rock’s joke, Smith stood up from his seat, walked up to the stage, and proceeded to deliver a powerful slap to the left side of the comedian’s face.
“Oh wow,” responded Rock. “Will Smith just smacked the s–t out of me.”
Returning to his seat, Smith in turn yelled, “Leave my wife’s name out of your f—ing mouth!”
“Wow, dude, it was a G.I. Jane joke,” explained a shocked Rock in return, drawing another, albeit more aggressive, refrain of “Keep my wife’s name out of your f—ing mouth!” from Smith.
“I’m going to, okay?” replied Rock, still stunned, before appraising, “That was the greatest night in the history of television.”
As Smith was consoled backstage by Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry, Rock was then followed as a presenter by Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, who reacted to the moment, “I did not know that this year was gonna be the most exciting Oscars ever.”
“Okay, Will and Chris, we’re going to solve that like family at the Gold Party,” he asserted. “But right now we’re moving on with love – everybody make some noise!”
To add to the spectacle, Smith, as mentioned above, later won Best Actor for his performance as Richard Williams, the father of professional tennis champions Serena and Venus Williams, in the biopic King Richard.
“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” the actor began his acceptance speech and seemingly alluding to the altercation. “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, who is one of the most strongest, most delicate people I’ve ever met,” he continued. “I got to protect Sinai and Demi, the two actresses who play 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 got to be able to take abuse,” Smith said, attempting to both hold back and wipe away tears. “You gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business you gotta be able to have people disrespecting you and you gotta smile and you gotta pretend like that’s OK”
“Denzel said to me a few minutes ago, ’At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you,’” he recalled. “I want to be a vessel for love. I want to say ‘thank you’ to Venus and Serena and the entire Williams family for trusting me with your story. I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care.”
Finally turning to address his assault of Rock, Smith told the audience, “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 lot on all the people…and the entire cast and crew of King Richard and Venus and Serena and the entire Williams family.”
“Art imitates life,” he concluded. “I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams! But, love will make you do crazy things.”
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