Will Smith used his Best Actor acceptance speech to apologise to the Academy and his fellow nominees, after striking Chris Rock onstage during the 2022 Oscars.
The shocking incident took place after the comedian, who was presenting the award for Best Documentary, made a joke about Smith’s wife and fellow actor, Jada Pinkett Smith.
“Jada, I love you. GI Jane 2, can’t wait to see you,” he quipped in an apparent reference to the actor’s shaved head.
Pinkett Smith – who announced last year that she shaved her head after struggling with alopecia – could be seen in the audience together with her husband, rolling her eyes at the joke.
Smith was seen walking onstage and hitting Rock before walking away, yelling for the comedian to “keep [my] wife’s name out your f***ing mouth”.
“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” a tearful Smith began in his speech. “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.
“Making this film I got to protect Aunjanue Ellis, who is one of the most strongest, most delicate people I ever met. I got to protect Saniyya and Demi, the two actresses that played 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.”
He continued: “I know to do what we do, you gotta be able to take abuse, and 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 you gotta pretend like that‘s OK.”
Smith proceeded to reveal what fellow actor Denzel Washington had told him just a few minutes before his award was announced: “At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you.”
He went on to thank Venus and Serena Williams, and “the entire Williams family for entrusting me with your story. That’s what I want to do. I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern.”
Smith then apologised to the Academy and his fellow nominees, but notably not to Rock.
“This is a beautiful moment and I’m not crying for winning an award,” he said. “It’s not about winning an award for me. It’s about being able to shine a light on all of the people. Tim and Trevor and Zack and Saniyya and Demi and Aunjunue 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. I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things.”
At the conclusion of his lengthy speech, Smith joked that he hopes the Academy “invites me back”.
Smith went on to win Best Actor for King Richard and, during his speech, shared what Denzel Washington told him in the aftermath of the incident.
You can read the speech in full here.
Following the incident, a joke Rock made about Pinkett Smith at the 2016 Oscars resurfaced online.
Earlier in the ceremony, Regina Hall – who was hosting the ceremony alongside Schumer and Wanda Sykes – poked fun at Smith and Pinkett Smith’s marriage.
A number of stars, including Jimmy Kimmel, Richard Madeley, Judd Apatow and Kathy Griffin, were among those to react to Smith’s altercation with Rock.