Thanks to Will Smith, the 94th Annual Academy Awards will now be forever known as the one where he smacked Chris Rock on stage.
Responding to the incident, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Oscars’ organisers, said in a statement: “The Academy 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 Academy 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 Academy (@TheAcademy) March 28, 2022
The slap heard around the world was over a joke Rock — who was presenting the Best Documentary Feature category — made about Pinkett Smith’s bald head. “Jada, love ya. G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see it,” he cracked, referring to Ridley Scott’s 1997 movie G.I. Jane, which features Demi Moore with a shaved head.
Pinkett Smith has previously opened up about her struggles with alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss. The joke didn’t go down well with Smith who walked up to Rock and slapped him, before returning to his seat and shouted, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth!”
“Oh Wow. Will Smith just smacked the s***t out of me,” a stunned Rock quipped, before continuing to present the award. “That was, er, the greatest night in the history of television,” he added.
Minutes later, Smith won Best Actor for his performance as Richard Williams, tennis champs Serena and Venus Williams’ father in King Richard. In his tearful acceptance speech, Smith apologised to the Academy for the incident. “I hope the Academy invites me back, thank you,” he said.
Meanwhile, Variety reported that Rock has “declined to file a police report” with the Los Angele Police Department following his altercation with Smith.
A statement from the Los Angeles Police Department reads (per Variety): “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program. 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.”
Meanwhile, Smith’s slap drew a flood of social media reactions, mainly condemnations from comedians who are concerned with people resorting to violence when they are offended by the material.
Tweeted Kathy Griffin: “ “Let me tell you something, it’s a very bad practice to walk up on stage and physically assault a comedian.”
Veteran producer Marshall Herskovitz believes Smith should answer for his action. “I call upon the Academy, of which I am a member, to take disciplinary action against Will Smith. He disgraced our entire community tonight.”
Smith’s son, Jaden, however, seemed to approve of his father’s outburst. He tweeted, “That’s How We Do It.” (Is it just us or do we a sense an Oprah Winfrey special where Smith appears to explain his side of the story?)
Here are some of the reactions circulating online:
Let me tell you something, it’s a very bad practice to walk up on stage and physically assault a Comedian.
Now we all have to worry about who wants to be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theaters.
— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) March 28, 2022
I call upon the Academy, of which I am a member, to take disciplinary action against Will Smith. He disgraced our entire community tonight.
— Marshall Herskovitz (@MHerskovitz) March 28, 2022
Hey professional comedians: be on notice! From now on, you need to make sure your jokes don’t offend people. Especially extremely attractive, famous and exorbitantly wealthy people!
— Richard Marx (@richardmarx) March 28, 2022
As usual, when it comes time to hand out the documentary Oscar, all hell breaks loose.
— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) March 28, 2022
— Maria Shriver (@mariashriver) March 28, 2022
so upsetting – on every level – bravo to Chris Rock – for not eviscerating will smith – which he could do any day of the week – he walked away – bravo from a sad display of toxic masculinity from a narcissistic madman #Oscars2022 #chrisROCK
— ROSIE (@Rosie) March 28, 2022
Violence isn’t ok. Assault is never the answer. Also? This is the 2nd time that Chris has made fun of Jada on the #Oscars stage, & tonight he went after her alopecia. Punching down at someone’s auto-immune disease is wrong. Doing so on purpose is cruel. They both need a breather.
— Sophia Bush (@SophiaBush) March 28, 2022
King Richard is now streaming on HBO Go.