The entertainment world was buzzing this week from one of the most bizarre and stunning Oscar moments ever, with best-actor nominee Will Smith smacking Chris Rock in the face on the Dolby Theatre stage after the comedian made a joke about Smith’s wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith.
Rock was on stage Sunday night to present the Oscar for best documentary feature, but he peppered in some jokes, including one referencing Pinkett Smith’s bald head, suggesting she would be starring in a sequel to “G.I. Jane.”
Pinkett Smith has talked in the past about having a hair-loss condition. And her husband, who initially appeared to laugh at the quip, didn’t take it well.
Smith, who was seated in the front of the theater, walked onto the stage and smacked Rock, in a move that initially drew some laughs from the crowd, believing it was a pre-planned comedy skit. But Smith stalked back to his seat, then sternly screamed at Rock twice, telling him to “keep my wife’s name out of your (expletive) mouth.”
The audience then fell into a stunned silence.
Rock went on to present the award amid an awkward silence inside the Dolby Theatre.
Later in the show, Smith returned to the Oscar stage when he won the prize for best actor for his performance in “King Richard,” portraying the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams.
“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” Smith said to begin his acceptance speech, drawing nervous laughter from the audience.
Fighting back tears, he later added, “I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to my fellow nominees.” He also appeared to express sorrow for his actions overshadowing the success of the film.
“I want to be a vessel for love,” he said. “I want to say thank you to Venus and Serena … and the entire Williams family for trusting me with your story. That’s what I wanted to do, I wanted to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern.”
He also said later, “I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams. … Love will make you do crazy things.”
Smith never mentioned Rock in his acceptance speech, which he ended by saying, “Hopefully the Academy invites me back.”
On Monday, Smith issued a public apology to Rock.
“Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive,” Smith wrote in his instagram post. “My behavior 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 apologize 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.”
Smith said fellow best-actor nominee Denzel Washington had given him some appropriate words: “Denzel said to me at your highest moment be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”
Smith did not speak to reporters in the backstage press room after his Oscar win.
After the show ended, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences posted on its Twitter page, “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 Los Angeles Police Department issued a statement saying that Rock had declined to pursue any charges against Smith.
“LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” according to the department. “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.”
Sean “Diddy” Combs briefly addressed the situation when he took the stage immediately after the slapping incident to introduce a 50th anniversary celebration of “The Godfather.”
“Will and Chris, we’re going to solve that like family,” he said.