Will Smith yelled at Chris Rock to “keep my wife’s name out your f***ing mouth” after striking the comedian onstage at the 94th Academy Awards, in what is being described by some as the most shocking incident in Oscars history.
Amid an outpouring of international reaction from shocked stars and fans, questions were raised over whether Smith could be forced to return the Best Actor award he received minutes after the violent outburst, into which the Academy announced it had launched a “formal review”.
Rock was onstage at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles to present the award for Best Documentary when he made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s appearance.
“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.
After Rock’s comment, Smith stood up and proceeded to walk towards the stage.
“Uh oh...” Rock was heard uttering.
Smith then proceeded to hit Rock and then walk off stage back to his seat.
“Will Smith just smacked the s*** out of me,” said Rock, looking visibly shocked at the moment.
Smith was then heard yelling: “Keep my wife’s name out your f***ing mouth,” to which Rock replied: “Wow ... dude. It was a GI Jane joke.”
“Keep my wife’s name out your f***ing mouth,” Smith yelled again. “I’m going to...” replied the comedian, who appeared flustered at the interaction.
“That was the greatest night in the history of television,” Rock said, before going on to present the award for Best Documentary.
Many viewers reported that the sound from the televised broadcast cut out during Smith’s outburst.
The Independent has contacted a representative of Smith’s for comment.
Denzel Washington, Bradley Cooper, and Tyler Perry were seen appearing to console Smith after the incident, with Smith revealing what Washington had said to him during his Best Actor speech for King Richard.
Earlier in the ceremony, Regina Hall – who was hosting the ceremony alongside Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes – poked fun at Smith and Pinkett Smith’s marriage, in a quip which prompted laughter from the couple.
Following the incident, a joke Rock made about Pinkett Smith at the 2016 Oscars resurfaced online.
Smith went on to win the Oscar for Best Actor. During his speech, he tearfully apologised to the Academy and his fellow nominees.
“I know to do what we do, you’ve got to be able to take abuse and have people talk crazy about you,” he said. “In this business you gotta be able to have people disrespecting you, and you gotta smile and you gotta pretend like that’s OK.
“I wanna be a vessel for love. I wanna say thank you to Venus and Serena and the entire Williams family for entrusting me with your story. That’s what I wanna do. I wanna be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern.”
Smith said he wished to apologise to the Academy and to his fellow nominees for the incident. Notably, he did not apologise to Rock himself.
At the conclusion of his lengthy speech, Smith joked that he hopes the Academy “invites me back”.
Shortly after the altercation, Smith – who is from Philadelphia, and whose wife is from Baltimore – joked on Instagram that “you can't invite people from Philly or Baltimore nowhere”.
After the Oscars concluded, the Academy issued a tweet that said: “The Academy does not condone violence of any form.
“Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Awards winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.”
A further Academy statement, issued after an emergency meeting, according to the Hollywood Reporter, “condemned” Smith’s actions and announced that it had “officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law”.
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) confirmed in a statement that they were aware that an incident took place at the Academy Awards, but that no one involved had filed a report.
“LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” a spokesperson said.
“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 be available to complete an investigative report.”
Smith’s 23-year-old son, rapper and actor Jaden Smith, also commented on the incident in a since-deleted tweet.
After the ceremony, footage circulated on social media showing Smith dancing to his 1997 hit single “Gettin' Jiggy wit It” at Vanity Fair’s star-studded after-party, where he was also pictured posing with fans for photos at the event.
The incident sparked widespread global reaction, including some condemnation of Smith’s violent – and apparently unsolicited – defence of his wife.
But many also leapt to Smith’s defence, among them Pinkett Smith’s Girls Trip co-star Tiffany Haddish, who told People: “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.”
Whoopi Goldberg, who is a serving governor for the Academy’s Actors branch, said that while she was “sure” that “there will be consequences” for Smith, “we’re not going to take that Oscar from him”.
Speaking on the US talk show The View, Goldberg suggested that Smith had “overreacted” and “snapped” under pressure, adding: ““Sometimes you get to a point when you behave badly ... I myself have behaved badly on occasion.”
After appearing to offer to mediate between Smith and Rock while presenting a special onstage tribute to The Godfather, for its 50th anniversary, rapper P Diddy – who attended the Oscars after-party – claimed that the pair had already made amends.
“That’s not a problem. That’s over. I can confirm that,” the 52-year-old, whose real name is Sean Combs, told Page Six, without expanding on how Smith and Rock had patched things up. “It’s all love,” he added. “They’re brothers.”
Radio host Howard Stern was among those to criticise Smith, comparing him to former US president Donald Trump, calling them “the same guy”, while Piers Morgan claimed Smith told him “don’t upset my wife” in an “unnerving” encounter prior to an interview with her in 2011.
Multiple British MPs also weighed in on the saga, with Tory MP Simon Hoare claiming he would have gone further and “lamped” the comedian for joking about his wife, and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer saying he was “pretty shocked” by Smith’s actions.
Conservative MP Dehenna Davison went so far as to write to Smith inviting him to speak to MPs on the All Party Parliamentary Group on One Punch Assaults, which she chairs.
Find the full list of 2022 Oscar winners here.