The Academy Awards briefly came to a stunning halt on Sunday night when Chris Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, causing Will Smith to come to the stage and hit him in the face.
The moment was not planned, said a person close to the Oscars production. Smith, who played Richard Williams (the father of tennis prodigies Venus and Serena) in the biopic “King Richard,” appeared onstage about 40 minutes later to accept his prize for best actor.
Smith cried throughout his speech, in which he didn’t reference Rock directly, but apologized to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and his fellow nominees for the disruption. “I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams,” Smith said, possibly trying to lighten the mood of the still-shocked audience. “But love will make you do crazy things.”
After the show, the academy released a statement saying it “does not condone violence of any form. Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Awards winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.”
The incident started as Rock arrived to present the award for best documentary, and started riffing about celebrity attendees. “Jada, I love you: ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it,” Rock said, an apparent reference to Pinkett Smith’s bald head. (Pinkett Smith has publicly spoken about her alopecia diagnosis several times.)
The camera cut to the star couple, and showed Smith laughing. Pinkett Smith rolled her eyes and did not look pleased.
Rock then held up his arms in a “who, me?” gesture as some of the audience groaned. “That was a nice one,” Rock grinned, and then looked like he was ready to continue. All of a sudden, the tone changed very abruptly as Smith jumped out of his seat and made his way to the stage.
“Uh oh!” Rock said jovially. He started laughing as Smith kept walking. Then Smith slapped him in the face.
The audience was still cracking up, perhaps thinking this was all a bit — and then abruptly stopped. ABC cut the sound on the broadcast, so there was about 20 seconds of silence. However, clips from international TV making the rounds on Twitter showed the dialogue between the two actors.
“Oh, wow!” Rock said as Smith walked back to his seat. “Wow. Will Smith just smacked the s— out of me.”
“Keep my wife’s name out your f—ing mouth,” Smith yelled after he sat back down.
“Wow, dude,” Rock said. “It was a ‘G.I. Jane’ joke.”
“Keep my wife’s name out your f—ing mouth!” Smith shouted louder.
“I’m going to. Okay?” Rock said, shaking his head. “Okay.”
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