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During the ceremony, the comedian made a crack about Jade Pinkett Smith getting ready to film a sequel to G.I. At the event, Rock joked about Jada getting ready to film a sequel to G.I. Jane — an apparent reference to the actress having a shaved head.
“Jada, I love ya,” Rock joked. “G.I. Jane 2, can't wait to see it. All right?”
The stand-up comedian heard the crowd's disapproval and responded, “That was a nice one!”.”
Chris Rock continued to make the gag, and then Will Smith got up from his seat in the audience, walked toward the stage, and slapped him.
Despite being broadcast overseas, what followed next was prohibited in the United States.
“Wow, wow,” Rock said as Smith returned to his seat. “Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me.”
Smith, who was once again seated in the crowd, shouted: “Keep my wife's name out of your f***g mouth!”
“Wow dude, it was a G.I. Jane joke,”: Rock remarked, pushing Smith to repeat his request.
Rock froze for a while, apparently shocked, before telling the crowd: “That was the greatest night in the history of television”: he said before continuing on with his hosting obligations.
During the upcoming commercial break, Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry approached Smith and reassured him, waving for him to brush it off. As he sat back down with his wife Jada, Smith looked to wipe tears from his eyes.
Hip-Hop icon P. Diddy, the following host, addressed the shocking situation by saying: “I did not know that this year was gonna be the most exciting Oscars ever. OK, Will and Chris, we're going to solve that like family at the Gold Party. But right now we're moving on with love. Everybody, make some noise!”
That could have been the end of the story. Smith later won the Oscar for best actor for King Richard, his first Oscar victory, and retook the stage in another dramatic surprise.
Many people wondered if the shocking incident was staged between Smith and Rock, but questions were quickly dispelled when Smith apologized for his behavior during his Oscar acceptance.
Will Smith took the mic and said “Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family. At this time in my life, at this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world. Making this film, I got to protect Aunjanue Ellis, who is one of the strongest, most delicate people I've ever met. I got to protect Saniyya and Demi, the two actresses who play Venus and Serena. I'm being called on in my life to love people. And to protect people and to be a river to my people.”
Smith brushed his tears away and went on: “I know, to do what we do, we got to be able to take abuse. You gotta be able to 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. Denzel said to me a few minutes ago, 'At your highest moment, be careful, that's when the devil comes for you.' I want to be a vessel for love. I want to say ‘thank you to Venus and Serena and the entire Williams family for trusting me with your story. I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care.”
The actor continued: “I want to apologize to the Academy, I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees. This is a beautiful moment, and I'm not crying for winning an award. It's not about winning an award for me, it's about being able to shine a lot on all the people and the entire cast and crew of King Richard and Venus and Serena and the entire Williams family. Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams! But, love will make you do crazy things.”
The Academy said in a statement released after the event that it: “does not condone violence of any form” and stressed that the night is to celebrate the winners who “deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.
The Los Angeles Police Department verified Rock's refusal to file a police report regarding the slapping, adding in a statement: “If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”
Will Packer, the program's producer, tweeted after the event: “Welp…I said it wouldn't be boring #Oscars” and co-host Regina Hall, who said she missed the moment while changing backstage, told The Hollywood Reporter, “I guess it's a memorable Oscars, let's just say that.”
The Academy Awards are a time to come together and celebrate our shared interest in the cinematic arts. We hope that the incident that happened this year will make everyone think about how we treat each other when we're under stress, and how to resolve conflict in a way that honors everyone involved.
Written by: Silvia Tine
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