The 2022 Oscars ceremony was derailed when Will Smith walked onstage and slapped Chris Rock across the face for making a joke about his wife, actor Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock referenced Pinkett Smith’s baldness (she has alopecia) and made a reference to 1997 movie G.I. Jane (which features a bald Demi Moore). Shortly after smacking the comedian, Smith returned to the stage for winning for Best Leading Actor, accepting the award in a bizarre, tearful speech.
As the chaos unfurled on-screen, the program scrambled to defuse the tension in the room. Co-host Amy Schumer joked, “What’d I miss?” Anthony Hopkins called for “peace.” On Twitter, the reactions were a bit more pointed.
“He could have killed him,” wrote director Judd Apatow in a since-deleted tweet. “That’s pure out of control rage and violence. They’ve heard a million jokes about them in the last three decades. They are not freshman in the world of Hollywood and comedy. He lost his mind.” Less dramatic, he added: “I have more hair on my back than on my head and I can take a joke about it.”
— Kate Aurthur (@KateAurthur) March 28, 2022
Apatow continued: “Seems like Will Smith’s plan to get comedians and the world to not make jokes about him is not going to pan out. The Williams family must be furious. Pure narcissism. Also- GI Jane was gorgeous. What exactly is insulting about being compared to a ripped, stunning Demi?” And: “Will Smith screwed over who deserved his moment without that toxic nonsense before him. I’m glad Chris is ok. Will learned nothing training for Ali. Will Smith’s punches are as soft as his raps,”
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
Comedian Kathy Griffin echoed Apatow’s disdain: “It’s a very bad practice to walk up on stage and physically assault a Comedian,” Griffin wrote. “Now we all have to worry about who wants to be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theaters.”
Howard Stern appeared rather apoplectic about the incident on his radio show Monday, March 28. The host wondered where the show’s security team was, and suggested the fact that Smith was allowed to stick around for the rest of the show was indicative of a double standard in Hollywood. “Here’s Hollywood that so outraged by every little thing. Not one person got up and said, ‘Hold on. We got an out of control situation here,” Stern said. “Now this guy was allowed to sit there for the rest of the awards and he’s laughing it up and having a good time with his wife.”
Howard Stern: “Where is security? Not one person came out, because he’s Will Smith. This is how Trump gets away with sh*t.” pic.twitter.com/X2q46ArEtK
— Mike Sington (@MikeSington) March 28, 2022
Stern’s most wild comment, however, was comparing Smith to Donald Trump: “This is how Trump gets away with shit,” Stern said. “Will Smith and Trump are the same guy. He decided he’s going to take matters into his own hands, you know, at a time when the world is at war. Bad timing, man.”
Sean “Diddy” Combs, who attended the Oscars, tweeted after the ceremony to “Move on with LOVE.” He also shared his dismay at the whole situation in a video taken in his car. “Shit happens sometimes,” he said.
Da hell is going on in this video man pic.twitter.com/jMnEvGU2yi
— Kurrco (@Kurrco) March 28, 2022
Others had a lighter reaction. “Just saw the Will Smith slap,” tweeted Conan O’Brien. “Anyone have a late night show I can borrow just for tomorrow?” Many others pointed out that the real shock was a G.I. Jane reference in 2022.
Just saw the Will Smith slap. Anyone have a late night show I can borrow just for tomorrow?
— Conan O'Brien (@ConanOBrien) March 28, 2022
So disappointing that Will Smith played Muhammad Ali but he couldn't even knock out Chris Rock.
— Michael Ian Black (@michaelianblack) March 28, 2022
“Keep Paul Walkers name out of your fucking mouth” – Vin Diesel standing over my bloody body at next years Peoples Choice Awards
— adam pally (@adampally) March 28, 2022
Some people did come to Smith’s defense. His son Jaden Smith simply tweeted: “And That’s How We Do It.” And comedian Tiffany Haddish — who was PInkett Smith’s costar in Girls Trip — told People she found the slap “beautiful” in an interview after the ceremony. “When I saw a Black man stand up for his wife, that meant so much to me. As a woman, who has been unprotected, for someone to say, ‘Keep my wife’s name out your mouth, leave my wife alone,’ that’s what your husband is supposed to do, right? Protect you. And that meant the world to me. And maybe the world might not like how it went down, but for me, it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen because it made me believe that there are still men out there that love and care about their women, their wives.”
In a since-deleted tweet, even U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) lauded Smith for standing up for his wife. “Alopecia nation stand up!” she tweeted. “Thank you Will Smith Shout out to all the husbands who defend their wives … Boys need not apply.”
And That’s How We Do It
— Jaden (@jaden) March 28, 2022