In a bizarre turn of events that left viewers of the Academy Awards stunned and initially fumbling whether it was all part of a skit, Will Smith slapped Chris Rock onstage after the comedian joked about the hair of his wife Jada Pinkett Smith. Moments later, Smith apologized after he won his first Oscar for his portrayal of a determined and protective father figure.
Rock appeared on stage during the 2022 Academy Awards on March 28 to present Best Documentary and bantered with the crowd.
He eventually addressed Smith and Pinkett Smith, and joked about the latter's shaved head.
"Jada, I love you G.I. Jane 2, can't wait to see you," Rock said, as the crowd let out a few laughs.
Pinkett Smith has gone public about her alopecia diagnosis, an autoimmune disorder that leads to hair loss.
In the 1997 movie G.I. Jane, meanwhile, lead actress Demi Moore portrayed a military woman with a shaved head.
Smith immediately went on stage after Rock's joke and struck him in the face, much to the shock of Rock and the audience.
"Wow," Rock said as Smith walked away. "Will Smith just smacked the s**t out of me."
The camera shifted to Smith, who can be heard shouting, "Keep my wife's name out your f***ing mouth" twice at Rock.
The American broadcast on ABC was muted and even froze during the heated moment, though not in other countries like Australia.
David Mack of Buzz Feed News shared a clip of the incident.
UNCENSORED WILL SMITH FOOTAGE AS SHOWN ON AUSTRALIAN TV pic.twitter.com/NcRfdjWxqe— David Mack (@davidmackau) March 28, 2022
Rock carried on with the Oscar presentation, but the Dolby Theater was already filled with much tension.
Moments after, Smith won his very first Oscar as best actor for King Richard.
In his speech, a teary-eyed Smith noted that his character Richard Wiliams was a "fierce defender of his family."
“I know we do what we do, you gotta be able to take abuse and you got to be able to have people talk crazy about you," he said. "In this business, you’ve got to be able to have people disrespecting you and you have to smile and pretend like that’s okay. I want to be a vessel for love.”
Without directly addressing Rock, he apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees for what happened.
Some netizens, meanwhile, poked fun at the situation with good ol' memes.
thanks to will smith and chris rock we got a new slap meme pic.twitter.com/YNiUFuOhnk— RaplineRoom (@RaplineRoom) March 28, 2022