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Will Smith Slaps Chris Rock at Oscars 2022 After Joke Gone Wrong

This was, however, not the first time Rock and Smith have crossed paths this Oscar season. At the National Board of Review gala in mid-March, Rock was on hand to present Paul Thomas Anderson with an award. However, he took a moment to praise Smith, another winner that night, for his performance in King Richard. “Goddammit, Will,” Rock said, raving about the actor’s performance.

Backstage at the Oscars after the incident, Rock played down his violent encounter with Smith. Per V.F.’s Anthony Breznican, one witness said Rock referenced Smith’s portrayal of Muhammad Ali in the Oscar-nominated biopic about the late boxer. “That’s the only time you get hit by Muhammad Ali and it doesn’t leave a scratch,’” Rock purportedly said. 

Smith was in attendance at this year’s Oscars to collect the best-actor prize for his performance in King Richard. The actor had been the perceived front-runner for months and won, as expected, on Sunday night. In his tear-filled speech, Smith compared himself to Richard Williams, a man who is also known as “a fierce defender of his family.”

“I know to do what we do, you’ve got to be able to take abuse,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to have people disrespecting you, and you’ve got to smile and you’ve got to pretend like that’s okay.… I look like the crazy father, just like they said.… Love will make you do crazy things.”

He concluded his speech by apologizing to the Academy and to his fellow nominees. “I hope the Academy invites me back,” Smith added. 

After a commercial break, cohost Amy Schumer made a quick quip about Rock and Smith. “I’ve been getting out of that Spider-Man costume. Did I miss anything?” she asked as the audience—Smith included—laughed. “There’s, like, a different vibe in here. Probably not. Well, anyway—okay.”

At Sunday night’s Oscar ceremony, Will Smith shocked the room by approaching the stage and slapping presenter Chris Rock in the face after the comedian made a joke about Smith’s wife, actor Jada Pinkett Smith. 

Rock was on the Oscar stage to present the award for best documentary. He began by making a few jokes about members of the show’s audience, including Pinkett Smith—referring to her as “G.I. Jane” due to her closely cropped hair. (Pinkett Smith has spoken in the past about her battle with alopecia.) Shortly after Rock made the joke, Smith walked to the stage and slapped the comedian across the face. He then returned to his seat and shouted, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

At first, watching the telecast, it was unclear whether the assault was a planned bit. But the show’s audio immediately cut out after Smith slapped Rock, then stayed muted as Rock said, “Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me,” while Smith walked away. When Smith yelled from his seat, Rock, still onstage, seemed stunned.

“Wow, dude,” replied Rock “It was a G.I. Jane joke.”

Rock went on to present the documentary prize to Summer of Soul director Questlove. Immediately after, Sean “Diddy” Combs came onstage to introduce a clip montage celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Godfather. “I didn’t know that this year was going to be the most exciting Oscars ever!” he said. “Okay, Will, Chris—we’re going to solve that like family. But right now, we’re moving on with love.” In the press room, Questlove declined to answer questions about the altercation. Reporters in the press room were also told they could no longer ask questions about other parts of the show, presumably to head off any more queries about the slap. 

Per Vanity Fair’s Rebecca Ford, Denzel Washington pulled Smith to the side for a conversation after the exchange, kneeling alongside Pinkett Smith when the show returned from the commercial break. Tyler Perry also joined Washington and Smith during the commercial break. The Smiths, per Ford, held hands at their seat for the rest of the show after the assault. 

An Academy librarian confirmed to V.F.’s Joy Press that this was likely the first time there had been real violence onstage at the ceremony. However, this was not the first time Rock had made a joke about Pinkett Smith at the Oscars. During the 2016 ceremony, which Rock hosted, he poked fun at Pinkett Smith for boycotting that year’s ceremony. “Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties,” Rock said at the time. “I wasn’t invited.”

This was, however, not the first time Rock and Smith have crossed paths this Oscar season. At the National Board of Review gala in mid-March, Rock was on hand to present Paul Thomas Anderson with an award. However, he took a moment to praise Smith, another winner that night, for his performance in King Richard. “Goddammit, Will,” Rock said, raving about the actor’s performance.

Backstage at the Oscars after the incident, Rock played down his violent encounter with Smith. Per V.F.’s Anthony Breznican, one witness said Rock referenced Smith’s portrayal of Muhammad Ali in the Oscar-nominated biopic about the late boxer. “That’s the only time you get hit by Muhammad Ali and it doesn’t leave a scratch,’” Rock purportedly said. 

Smith was in attendance at this year’s Oscars to collect the best-actor prize for his performance in King Richard. The actor had been the perceived front-runner for months and won, as expected, on Sunday night. In his tear-filled speech, Smith compared himself to Richard Williams, a man who is also known as “a fierce defender of his family.”

“I know to do what we do, you’ve got to be able to take abuse,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to have people disrespecting you, and you’ve got to smile and you’ve got to pretend like that’s okay.… I look like the crazy father, just like they said.… Love will make you do crazy things.”

He concluded his speech by apologizing to the Academy and to his fellow nominees. “I hope the Academy invites me back,” Smith added. 

After a commercial break, cohost Amy Schumer made a quick quip about Rock and Smith. “I’ve been getting out of that Spider-Man costume. Did I miss anything?” she asked as the audience—Smith included—laughed. “There’s, like, a different vibe in here. Probably not. Well, anyway—okay.”

Credit: Vanity Fair

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