Actor Will Smith made history twice at the 94th Academy Awards last night and simultaneously breathed life into the floundering award show on its last legs.
The planners of last night’s Oscars broadcast had their fingers crossed that this year would be the turning point for the award show that had been limping every year into irrelevance with declining ratings and viewership. The show had 3 hosts – Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, and Wanda Sykes – along with a pretty diverse nominee lineup, hoping to put an end to the #oscarssowhite hashtag. But it was Will Smith’s impromptu slap of Chris Rock that ultimately turned heads and brought eyes and relevance to the show.
During a segment of the show, comedian Chris Rock took the stage to present an award for “Best Documentary.” Before presenting the nominees, Chris Rock of course had to poke fun at a few actors in attendance. Rock spots actress Jada Pinkett Smith in the audience and says:
“Jada I love you, G.I. Jane 2 I can’t wait to see it”
The reference was made to Pinkett’s fierce bald head – a look she has been fostering since revealing that she was diagnosed with a hair loss condition, alopecia, in 2018. Although some of the audience were amused by the joke, Pinkett rolled her eyes.
The joke missed, badly. What happened next surprised us all. Pinketts husband, actor Will Smith, is seen walking up to Chris Rock on stage and open-handed smacks him in the face.
A stunned Rock exclaimed, “Wow. Will Smith just smacked the s*** outta me.”
Casually walking back to his seat, Smith tells Rock “Keep my wife’s name out your fuc*ing mouth.”
“That was the greatest night in the history of television,” Rock said before resuming his role as presenter.
Pinkett was also the subject of jokes from Rock when he hosted the Oscars in 2016. Pinkett did not attend the Oscars that year, saying at the time her decision stemmed from a lack of diversity among award nominees and how Black artists were not properly represented.
When it comes to his wife, Smith says he puts family first, like his on-screen character, Richard Williams, whom Smith depicted in the award-winning “King Richard” film. In a recent interview with Gayle King, Smith checked and corrected Gayle about mentioning infidelity allegations in his marriage with Pinkett.
After the commotion, Smith makes history again going home with his first ever Oscar Award as “Best Actor” for his role in “King Richard” where he played the role, Richard Williams.
During his heartfelt speech, tears filled his eyes as he apologized for his actions. Smith went on to reference his role as a protector to his family off and on screen.
“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” Smith said as he began his acceptance speech, alluding to his defending Jada Smith against Chris Rock’s joke.
“I wanna apologize to the Academy and the nominees, I know to do what we do, you have to be able to take abuse. In this business you gotta allow people disrespecting you, and you gotta smile like it’s okay,” Smith continued.
“I’m hoping the Academy invites me back,” Will Smith said, as he concluded his acceptance speech.
The Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement that it was aware of the incident.
“The incident involved one individual slapping another,” the statement read. “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.”Earlier this year, Smith won the Best Actor award for the motion picture “King Richard” at the Golden Globes which did not broadcast on air, but instead announced winners via social media.