In what may be the most shocking moment in the history of the Academy Awards, Will Smith jumped onstage and smacked Chris Rock while the comedian was presenting the Best Documentary award at the 2022 Oscars.
The unscripted moment arrived after the comedian joked about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss, a symptom of alopecia. “Jada, love you, G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see it,” Rock said, before the actress rolled her eyes. Will appeared to laugh at the joke at first but then walked up onstage. After Rock said “Uh oh,” Smith hit Rock before returning to his seat.
VIA JAPANESE TELEVISION: The uncensored exchange between Will Smith and Chris Rock pic.twitter.com/j0Z184ZyXa
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) March 28, 2022
There was a loud noise when Smith hit Rock, sources inside the Dolby Theatre told Rolling Stone, with people in the audience assuming it was a skit and some claiming that Smith’s slap amounted to a full-on criminal assault. “The whole place was stunned,” said one attendee. Rock told the audience, “Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me.”
The sound was cut from the televised broadcast, but Smith yelled, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.” Rock said, “Wow dude, it was a ‘G.I. Jane’ joke,” before Will repeated the admonition. A visibly shocked Rock would go on to say, “That was the greatest night in the history of television.”
Last December, Jada spoke about her alopecia on Instagram, writing, “Mama’s gonna have to take it down to the scalp so nobody thinks she got brain surgery or something. Me and this alopecia are going to be friends … period!”
This isn’t the first time Rock has joked about the couple. When he hosted the Oscars in 2016, he said, “Jada Pinkett Smith boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties — I wasn’t invited!”
Footage shows Tyler Perry, Denzel Washington and Bradley Cooper comforting Smith moments after the feud, with Smith appearing to wipe his eyes. Smith later revealed during his acceptance for the Best Actor that Washington told him, “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”
Following the moment in which Will Smith seemingly slapped Chris Rock at the #Oscars, Smith is comforted by Tyler Perry and Denzel Washington. He appears to wipe away tears before rejoining his wife pic.twitter.com/TyXPQe1WGY
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) March 28, 2022
Immediately following the incident, Rock announced that the Questlove-directed Summer of Soul won the award. Backstage, a reporter asked Questlove about the vibe in the room when he started his speech. “I’m not talking about that,” Questlove said, shaking his head and appearing to be frustrated. “This is about the Harlem Cultural Festival.” A rep for the Academy told reporters, “I caution you to not ask questions referring to anything else on the show other than the current winners on the stage.”
Later, Smith won the Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams in King Richard, (the film received six nominations total). He approached the stage with a smile, appearing to reference the incident. “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 on me to do and be in this world,” Smith said. “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 gotta be able to take abuse, have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you gotta be able to have people disrespecting you and you gotta smile and pretend like that’s OK.
“I want to apologize to the Academy, I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees,” he added. “Art imitates life; I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams. Love will make you do crazy things …I hope the Academy invites me back.”
Will Smith laughing and getting love after the show pic.twitter.com/M0SIz1LvXc
— nekesa mumbi moody (@nekesamumbi) March 28, 2022
Early Monday morning, a spokesperson for the LAPD confirmed that Rock declined to press charges against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “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 available to complete an investigative report.”
Additional reporting by Nancy Dillon and Tatiana Siegel