Variety

Will Smith smacks Chris Rock, apologises to the Academy

Bloomberg | Updated on: Mar 28, 2022
Chris Rock reacts after being hit by Will Smith (R) as Rock spoke on stage during the 94th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S

Chris Rock reacts after being hit by Will Smith (R) as Rock spoke on stage during the 94th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S | Photo Credit: BRIAN SNYDER

“I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people,” Smith said in his acceptance speech.

Actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on live television moments before winning the best actor Oscar, a moment that will go down as one of the most shocking in the 94-year history of the Academy Awards.

Rock had joked that Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, should be in the next “G.I. Jane” movie, a reference to her short hair. She has alopecia, a disease that causes hair loss. Although broadcaster ABC went silent during the exchange, Smith could be heard speaking profanities.

The Academy in response tweeted:

The incident overshadowed a milestone in Hollywood history, the first time a movie released primarily online won the best picture. “CODA,” a film about a high school student who can hear struggling to please her deaf family, was released on the streaming service Apple TV+. It was a setback for streaming industry pioneer Netflix Inc., which has been trying for years to win the industry’s top prize. Its film, “The Power of the Dog,” was considered a strong contender.

Smith won the award for best actor for his portrayal of Richard Williams, the father of real-life tennis legends Serena and Venus Williams, in “King Richard,” a film from AT&T Inc.’s Warner Bros. unit. Smith had been nominated twice before in the acting category but never won. 

In a tearful acceptance speech, Smith said Williams, the person he portrayed, always defended his family. Smith also lamented the amount of “abuse” actors and filmmakers must take while smiling and having to “pretend like it’s OK.” 

“I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people,” he said.

 He apologised to the Academy and his fellow nominees after striking Chris Rock onstage. “Thank you. I hope the Academy invites me back,” he added.

Published on March 28, 2022
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