Why did Will Smith slap Chris Rock? Oscars comments on Jada Pinkett explained - and what he said in apology
After Will Smith took to the stage to hit presenter Chris Rock over a ‘G.I. Jane 2’ joke made about Jada Pinkett Smith, LAPD officers were ‘prepared’ to arrest the actor
The Oscars is the most highly anticipated awards show of the year, with the biggest names in Hollywood coming together to dish out gongs for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and, of course, the highly coveted Best Picture.
While the Academy Awards 2022 made history with Troy Kostur, star of CODA, becoming the first deaf male actor to win an Oscar, which he picked up for Best Supporting Actor, the ceremony this year will be remembered for very different reasons - Will Smith taking to the stage to slap presenter Chris Rock.
This is everything you need to know.
What did Chris Rock say?
Comedian Chris Rock, who was presenting for the Best Original Documentary category of the awards show, referred to Pinkett Smith’s buzzcut, in which he said: “Jada, can’t wait for GI Jane 2.”
Pinkett Smith has a condition called alopecia, which causes hair loss, and has in the past talked about her struggles with disease and is the reason for her shaved head.
In response to Rock’s comment, Pinkett Smith could be seen rolling her eyes and Smith was also seen laughing, prior to taking the stage.
What did Will Smith do?
After Rock’s comment, Smith took to the stage and appeared to hit Rock before returning to his seat, shouting: “Keep my wife’s name out of your f**king mouth.”
While some versions of the ceremony have been bleeped, uncensored clips aired in Japan and Australia revealed, after the slap, Rock saying: “Oh wow, wow, Will Smith just smacked the s**t out of me.”
The altercation left Rock shocked and flustered as he tried to return to presenting the best documentary feature category.
The incident occurred just minutes before Smith claimed the Best Actor award during the ceremony.
Did Will Smith apologise?
During his acceptance speech, Smith apologised to both the Academy and his fellow nominees, but not to Rock, as he collected his gong, joking that he “looks like the crazy father”.
Breaking down in tears, he said: “Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family.
“In this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what god is calling me to do and be in this world.”
He added: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people.
“I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, you’ve got to be able to have people talk crazy about you in this business.
“You’ve got to be able to have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend like that’s OK.”
He added: “I want to apologise to the Academy, I want to apologise to all my fellow nominees.
“This is a beautiful moment and I’m not crying for winning an award, it’s not about winning an award for me, it’s about being able to shine a light on all of the people.”
He continued: “Art imitates life, I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things.”
After paying tribute to his mother and his family he added: “Thank you for this honour, thank you for this moment…I hope the Academy invites me back.”
Smith later issued a statement on Instagram which apologised directly to Rock, in which he described his behaviour as “unacceptable and inexcusable”.
He wrote: “Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behaviour at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.
“I would like to publicly apologise 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.
“I would also like to apologise to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world. I would like to apologise to the Williams Family and my King Richard Family. I deeply regret that my behaviour has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us.
“I am a work in progress.
What has Jada Pinkett Smith said about the incident?
Pinkett initially kept quiet regarding the slap however appeared to break her silence on Wednesday (30 March) with a somewhat cryptic post on Instagram.
She posted an image which said: “This is a season for healing and I’m here for it.”
The caption of the post was blank, with Pinkett not saying more about the incident.
What has Richard Williams said?
Smith portrays Richard Williams, father and coach of tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams, in the film King Richard, for which he won an Oscar.
Smith also referenced Williams in his speech when he collected the award, calling him a “fierce defender of his family”, seemingly drawing comparisons between himself and Williams.
Williams, via his son Chavoita LeSane, told NBC News: “We don’t know all the details of what happened.
“But we don’t condone anyone hitting anyone else unless it’s in self-defence.”
What has Chris Rock said?
Rock did not comment on the slap after it happened, but has since broken his silence, referencing the altercation at a show in Boston.
He said that he would talk about it properly “at some point” and that when he did officially speak about the incident, it would be “serious and funny”.
Talking to the audience, Rock opened the show by saying: “How was your weekend?
“I don’t have a bunch of s*t about what happened, so if you came to hear that, I have a whole show I wrote before this weekend.
“I’m still kind of processing what happened. So, at some point, I’ll talk about that s**t. And it will be serious and funny.”
Following the highly talked about slap, tickets for Rock’s upcoming comedy shows skyrocketed. TickPick, a live event ticking site, said that on Monday (28 March), it sold more tickets on Sunday (27 March) than it had done in the entirety of the previous month.
A spokesperson also told CBS that prices for Rock’s show in Boston grew from $46 to $41, with more than half of all ticket sales for Rock’s tour being bought in the aftermath of the Oscars. In fact, 88% of ticket sales for his shows on the website came after the slap.
What has the Academy said?
Following the incident, the Academy tweeted: “The Academy does not condone violence of any form.
“Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Award winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.”
It was later announced on Monday (28 March) that the Academy has “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”.
Shortly after the slap happened, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) told the PA news agency said that no report had been filed.
They said: “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards programme.
“The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report.
“If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”
It has since been revealed by a producer of the Oscars ceremony that police were ready to arrest Smith after the slap happened.
In his first interview since the Oscars took place, Will Packer told ABC TV that officers asked Rock if he wanted to take action against the King Richard star. However, Rock was “very dismissive”.
Talking about the incident, Packer said: “[Police] were saying, you know, this is - battery was the word they used at that moment. They said, “We will go get him. We are prepared. We’re prepared to go get him right now. You can press charges. We can arrest him”.
“They were laying out the options. And as they were talking, Chris was being very dismissive of those options He was like, “No, I’m fine”, he was like, “No, no, no”, even to the point where I said, “Rock, let them finish”.
“The other LAPD officers finished laying out what his options were and they said, “Would you like us to take any action?” and he said, “No.””
Was the altercation staged?
While some viewers are convinced that the slap was fake or staged, it appears to have been entirely real.
According to Variety, Smith’s publicist Meredith O Sullivan and actor Denzel Washington approached the actor during the advert break.
Smith revealed during his acceptance speech that Washington had said to him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”
What has the reaction online been like?
Reaction to Smith’s behaviour online has been mixed, ranging from delight to shock to concern.
Smith and Pinkett Smith’s son, Jaden Smith, tweeted: “And That’s How We Do It.”
American Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, who has also been diagnosed with alopecia, wrote in a now deleted tweet: “#Alopecia nation stand up! Thank you #WillSmith Shout out to all the husbands who depend their wives living with alopecia in the face of daily ignorance & insults.”
New Girl and When Harry Met Sally actor Rob Reiner tweeted: “Will Smith owes Chris Rock a huge apology. There is no excuse for what he did. He’s lucky Chris is not filing assault charges. The excuses he made tonight were bulls**t.”
Ru Paul’s Drag Race winner Bob the Drag Queen tweeted a poll which asked: “Do y’all think Will Smith was wrong?”
The poll has three options to choose from - “yes”, “no” and “it’s complicated”. Nearly 40,000 users have voted on the poll and it’s almost a three way tie between each answer, with “no” only just taking the lead.
Others, predictably, made jokes about the the incident with references to Smith’s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, which, in the theme song says that Smith’s character “got in one little fight and my mom got scared, so she said, “You’re movin’ with your auntie and uncle in Bel-Air””.
“If only there were precedent for what happens when Will Smith gets in one little fight. Truly we are in uncharted territory here,” writer James Felton tweeted.
Red Bull esports athlete David Hunt (aka Grand PooBear) wrote: “Perhaps Will Smith was the aggressor in that one little fight that his mom got scared about all those years ago…”
Writer Zack Bornstien also tweeted: “BREAKING: Will Smith Being Sent to Live with Aunt and Uncle in Bel-Air.”
What is alopecia?
Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss and, within the alopecia umbrella, there are a number of different forms of alopecia, like alopecia areata, androgenetic alopecia, chemotherapy induced alopecia and traction alopecia.
Alopecia areata is often simply referred to as alopecia, and is a form of alopecia which is thought to be an autoimmune condition that causes hair to fall out, usually in round or oval patches on the scalp, or in other areas where the body grows hair, like the beard, eyebrows or eyelashes.
Pinkett Smith was diagnosed with alopecia in 2018. She discussed her condition in an episode of her Facebook chat show, Red Table Talk, in which she said that the hair loss was “terrifying when it first started”.
At the time, she said that she first suspected she had alopecia after “handfuls of hair” would come loose whilst she was in the shower.
She began: “A lot of people have been asking why I’ve been wearing turbans. Well, I haven’t talked about it. It’s not easy to talk about, but I’m going to talk about it.”
Pinkett Smith continued: “I was in the shower one day and had just handfuls of hair in my hands, and I was just like, “Oh my god, am I going bald?” It was one of those times in my life where I was literally shaking with fear.
“That’s why I cut my hair and I continue to cut it.”
At the end of 2021, Pinkett Smith uploaded a video to Instagram to talk about a new bald patch which had appeared near the front of her scalp, which took the form of an almost straight line.
In the video she said: “Look at this line right here.
“Now this is going to be a little bit more difficult for me to hide, so I thought I’d just share it so y’all not asking any questions.”
In the caption, she wrote: “Mama’s gonna have to take this down to the scalp so nobody thinks she got brain surgery or something.
“Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… period!”