The Academy Awards have had plenty of WTF-worthy moments, from that Best Picture envelope kerfuffle when Parasite won back in 2020 to the streaker that bum-rushed the stage—literally—at the 46th Academy Awards ceremony in 1974.
But on Sunday, March 27, Will Smith entered that shocking canon when, upon hearing an insensitive joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith's bald head (an effect of the autoimmune disorder alopecia) from presenter Chris Rock, sauntered onto the Oscars stage and gave the comedian a hard hit to the face. Smith could be heard yelling, "Keep my wife’s name out of your f*cking mouth!" to Rock when he returned to his seat.
Winning the Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams in the Best Picture nominee King Richard, Smith seemingly alluded to the altercation in his acceptance speech.
"I know, to do what we do, we got to be able to take abuse. 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 pretend like that’s okay...I want to be a vessel for love," Smith said in his speech.
He also apologized to the Academy and to his fellow nominees but he did not apologize to Rock himself—until now.
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Will Smith apologizes to Chris Rock: what he said
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On Monday, March 28, Smith posted an official statement on his social media, which read: "Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.
Smith continued: "I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness."
The award winner also doubled down on his apology to the Academy, writing: "I would also like to apologize to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world. I would like to apologize to the Williams Family and my King Richard Family. I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us. I am a work in progress."
Academy Awards statement about Will Smith:
Though audiences and viewers were stunned and confused over what led to the dramatic altercation, more details were revealed on Monday morning. The Los Angeles Police Department announced that Rock chose not to press charges against Smith over the onstage smack.
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced that they were doing their own formal review of what occurred, saying in a statement: "The Academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night's show. We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law."
It was revealed by sources to CNN (opens in new tab) that "Academy leadership strongly considered removing Will Smith from last night's broadcast following the incident. There were immediate discussions but the Academy decision makers were seated in various spots in the Dolby Theater and couldn't mobilize to make a decision before he won best actor."
The Academy's code of conduct is "categorically opposed to any form of abuse, harassment or discrimination" and admonishes "people who abuse their status, power or influence in a manner that violates standards of decency, per CBS News (opens in new tab). Whether the Board of Governors will discipline Smith through suspension, expulsion or removal of his Academy Award remains to be seen.
Christina Izzo is the Deputy Editor of My Imperfect Life.
More generally, she is a writer-editor covering food and drink, travel, lifestyle and culture in New York City. She was previously the Features Editor at Rachael Ray In Season and Reveal, as well as the Food & Drink Editor and chief restaurant critic at Time Out New York.
When she’s not doing all that, she can probably be found eating cheese somewhere.
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