The glitz and glamor of Hollywood turned violent Sunday night at the 2022 Academy Awards as actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock in the face, causing a tape delay disruption in the ABC television network’s broadcast of the Oscars.
Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, while introducing the nominations for Best Documentary.
“Jada, I love you. G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see it.” Rock joked, apparently making reference to Pinkett Smith’s short haircut in relation to Demi Moore’s US Navy Seals military haircut in the film G.I. Jane.
The broadcast was interrupted by an awkward tape delay, cutting to Smith saying something to Rock with faint audio of the interaction.
Online video of the uncensored part of the broadcast showed Smith walking up on stage and slapping Rock with an open hand across the face before walking back to his seat.
Right after the hit, Rock said, “Wow. Oh wow.”
The cameras cut back to Smith, who shouted at Rock: “Keep my wife’s name out of your f-ing mouth!”
Smith later won the Oscar for Best Actor for the film King Richard, where he plays the protective father to tennis phenoms Venus and Serena Williams.
He cryptically addressed the situation in his acceptance speech, referring to his role in the film.
“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” said Smith. “Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said…like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams.”
“I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people,” Smith continued. “I know to do what we do, you gotta 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 disrespect you, and you gotta smile and you gotta pretend like that’s okay.”
“Denzel said to me a few minutes ago,” Smith went on, referring to his conversation with fellow Best Actor nominee Denzel Washington, “he said ‘at your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.’”
Smith did not mention Rock by name, but offered a general apology to the Academy during his speech.
“I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees,” he said. “Thank you. I hope the Academy invites me back.”