Will Smith Assaults Chris Rock at Oscars, Then Wins Award

The unanticipated moment when Will Smith marched onto the Oscars stage and smacked Chris Rock served as a startling interruption to Hollywood’s feel-good celebration.

When Smith returned moments later to accept his first Academy Award, he apologized tearfully for an act that would undoubtedly overshadow his historic victory. During Sunday night’s awards, he used the chance to talk about how he, like his tennis dad character Richard Williams from “King Richard,” is a strong defender.

After Rock made a remark about Jada Pinkett Smith’s appearance that didn’t sit well with him, Smith felt like the guardian of many people, especially his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

“Richard Williams was a staunch protector of his family,” Smith said in his acceptance speech after receiving the award for best actor. He apologized to a number of individuals subsequently, including tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams and Richard Williams’ kids, but he did not address Rock.

Smith then talked about being a bodyguard for those who worked on the film with him, including Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, and Demi Singleton, who played Venus and Serena, respectively.

“I’m being called on in my life to love people, to defend people, and to be a river to my people,” Smith stated after accepting his first Academy Award. “I know you have to be able to endure abuse to accomplish what we do.” You must be able to get others to talk about you in a wild way. You have to be able to put up with people insulting you in this profession. And you have to put on a brave front and act as though everything is fine.”

“Jada, I love you,” Rock said, pointing his finger to Pinkett Smith’s shorn head. “Can’t wait to watch ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ right?” Rock made the allusion to Demi Moore’s character in the 1997 film “G.I. Jane,” in which she shaved her head to play a fake Navy Seal candidate.

In 2018, Pinkett Smith disclosed that she had been diagnosed with alopecia. On Instagram and other social media sites, she has frequently shared the difficulties of hair loss.

The joke flopped miserably.

Smith stepped onto the stage from his front-row position and smacked Rock across the face with an open palm. Smith took a step back and yelled at Rock to leave Pinkett Smith alone. Smith shouted back at Rock a second time, saying he was only making a “G.I. Jane” joke.

“Keep my wife’s name out of your (expletive) lips,” Smith yelled at Rock, and the crowd fell silent as it became evident this was no performance.

The audience inside the Dolby Theatre, as well as watchers at home, were taken aback by the scene. Presenter Daniel Kaluuya approached Smith during the commercial break to hug him, and Denzel Washington walked him to the side of the stage. Tyler Perry walked over to chat with them after they talked and hugged.

“At your brightest moment, be careful because that’s when the devil comes for you,” Washington warned Smith.

As he wrapped up his on-stage remarks, Will Smith stated, “I’m hope the Academy welcomes me back.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences issued a statement following the presentation, stating that it “does not condone violence in any form.”

The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed it was aware of the occurrence in a statement.

The altercation featured one person slapping another, according to the statement. “The person who was involved has chosen not to submit a police report.” The LAPD will be available to finish an investigation report if the affected party requests one at a later time.”

“That was the greatest night in television history,” Rock added before returning to his hosting duties.

A few minutes later, rapper Sean Combs, who was on stage to deliver an homage to “The Godfather,” attempted to mediate between Smith and Rock by suggesting they resolve their issues at an Oscars afterparty.

“Will and Chris, at the Gold celebration, we’re going to fix that like family,” Combs remarked.

The reverberations continued after that. Several others approached Smith and Pinkett Smith during the subsequent commercial breaks; Keith Urban hugged Smith during one of the commercial breaks, and Nicole Kidman also came over to offer a few things.

Backstage, during prize interviews, the Rock-Smith incident seemed to be something that few — if any — people wanted to talk about.

“I’m not talking about that,” said Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, director of the Oscar-winning documentary “Summer of Soul.”

Smith’s historic achievement was overshadowed by the brawl. He was nominated for best actor twice before, for his roles in “Ali” in 2002 and “The Pursuit of Happyness” in 2007. He played real-life individuals in those films, including boxing champion Muhammad Ali and destitute businessman Chris Garner.

This time, Smith triumphed over a strong field that included Andrew Garfield, Javier Bardem, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Denzel Washington, who won his first and only Best Actor Oscar in 2002 for “Training Day” over Smith.

When Rock presented the Academy Awards in 2016, he made jokes about Pinkett Smith. She did not attend the Oscars that year, citing a lack of diversity among award nominations and how Black musicians were underrepresented at the time as reasons for her choice.

“I believe we have to realize that everyone breaks at some point,” TV personality Karamo Brown stated. “However, I believe that these are two men who will get together, sort it out, and say, ‘OK, enough is enough, I’m sorry.’ I’ve never been in a position like that. I never condone violence or anything of the kind, but I can understand the need to defend those you care about.”

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