Will Smith apologized to Chris Rock, the Academy, and the public the day after slapping him on the Oscars stage and upending the 94th Academy Awards, claiming he was “out of line” and that his actions were “not emblematic of the man I want to be.”
The impact from Smith’s actions at Sunday’s ceremony continued Monday, as Hollywood and the public grappled with a moment that rocked the Dolby Theatre audience and millions of viewers across the world. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced it will investigate Smith for hitting Rock, who had made a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
Later that day, Smith apologized more forcefully than he did in his best actor award speech, which conspicuously omitted an apology to Rock.
“Violence in all of its forms is corrosive and destructive,” Smith wrote in an Instagram message sent by his publicist. “My conduct at last night’s Academy Awards was disgusting and irresponsible.” Jokes about my physical condition are part of the work, but one about Jada’s illness was too much for me to handle, and I responded emotionally. Chris, I’d want to officially apologize to you. I was both out of line and incorrect. I’m humiliated, and my actions do not reflect the guy I aspire to be. Violence has no place in a society of love and peace.”
The 53-year-old actor also expressed regret to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the telecast’s producers, guests, viewers, and the Williams family. Smith was recognized on Sunday for his performance in “King Richard” as Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena.
“I’m still a work in progress,” Smith remarked.
The film academy said it will evaluate Smith’s activities and “consider additional action and penalties in line with our bylaws, rules of conduct, and California law” after scheduling a board of governors meeting to discuss the event on Monday. The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed the event on Sunday, but said it will not pursue an investigation since the person involved refused to submit a police complaint.
When Smith entered the stage after Rock, who was attending as a presenter, remarked, “Jada, I love you,” the Dolby Theatre audience and watchers at home were taken aback. “I can’t wait to watch ‘G.I. Jane 2.”
The joke hit a sensitive spot. Pinkett Smith, who has shaved her head, has opened up about her alopecia diagnosis. Smith walked onto the stage and smacked Rock in the face. “Get my wife’s name out of your (expletive) lips,” Smith said twice as he returned to his seat. His remarks reverberated throughout the Dolby, albeit the audio was cut for roughly 15 seconds by ABC. Smith won best actor in less an hour and received a standing ovation. Smith spoke about defending his family during his five-minute acceptance speech. He also expressed regret to the academy.
According to two insiders close to production who were not permitted to talk publicly, Rock’s joke was not part of his act during the rehearsals leading up to the event.
Rock, on the other hand, has already made fun of Pinkett Smith. He hosted the 2016 Oscars at a time when many people were boycotting the show because of the #OscarsSoWhite nominations, which included the Smiths. “Jada’s boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s underwear,” Rock said at the time. “I didn’t get an invitation.”
Smith’s antics shook a crucial Oscar ceremony. Until that point, Will Packer, the show’s producer, had overseen an orderly and amusing program that the academy thought would revive the Academy Awards after last year’s record-low viewership. According to early Nielsen company data released Monday, the event on Sunday drew an estimated 15.36 million viewers. Despite a significant increase over last year’s 9.85 million viewers, it was still the second-least watched Oscars.
Some members of the academy, such as writer-producer Marshall Herskovitz, have asked for Smith to be disciplined.
On Twitter, Herskovitz stated, “He degraded our whole community today.”
“We’re not going to take that Oscar away from him,” Whoopi Goldberg, a member of the Academy’s board of governors, said Monday on “The View.” I’m sure there will be repercussions.”
The Screen Actors Guild chimed in as well. The event was deemed “inappropriate” by the cinema, television, and radio union. SAG stated that it had spoken with the academy and ABC, but that it would not comment on the guild’s internal disciplinary procedures.
After Smith’s assault, the Dolby Theatre was filled with a sense of astonishment. Not only was it a bizarre breach of protocol on live national television — an occurrence so dramatic, almost movie-like, that many felt it was a set piece — but it also appeared out of character for one of Hollywood’s most perpetually happy performers. And it happened less than an hour before Smith achieved perhaps the zenith of his career by receiving his first Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
On Bill Simmons’ show, former Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel remarked, “In a sense, I feel awful for Will Smith, too, because I believe he let his emotions get the best of him, and this should have been one of the finest evenings of his life.” “But it’s no longer the case. Was there anyone in the world an hour ago who didn’t like Will Smith? Isn’t it true that you’re like no one else? He hasn’t made a single comedy buddy in a long time.”
Some wondered if Smith should have been allowed to remain in the front row after hitting Rock. Denzel Washington, Bradley Cooper, and Tyler Perry were among the celebrities who raced to provide advice and comfort to Smith. However, the timing was particularly inconvenient because the best actor category was set to be announced shortly after, and Smith had long been considered a shoe-in for the prize.
“I know we’re all still digesting,” Janai Nelson, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said on Twitter. “How casual violence was normalized tonight by a collective national audience will have ramifications that we can’t even imagine in the time.”
The controversy obscured certain Oscar wins that were historically significant. “CODA,” a deaf family drama, became the first film to win best picture with an entirely deaf cast. For the first time, Apple TV+, a streaming service, won the Academy Award for Best Picture, indicating a significant shift in Hollywood and moviegoing. Ariana DeBose of “West Side Story,” Troy Kotsur of “CODA,” and Jane Campion, director of “The Power of the Dog,” had all won awards that were unprecedented.
Tiffany Haddish, who co-starred with Pinkett Smith in “Girls Trip,” was among others who defended Smith.
“Maybe the rest of the world doesn’t like how it went down, but it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever witnessed because it made me feel that there are still guys out there that love and care about their wives,” Haddish told People magazine.
Smith posed for photos with his family outside the Vanity Fair party after the concert. Cell phone footage inside showed him dancing to “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” while holding his Oscar. “And That’s How We Do It,” their son Jaden tweeted. “Me and Jada Pinkett Smith got all dressed up to pick pandemonium,” Smith said on Instagram.