Sunday’s 94th Academy Awards kept the spirit buoyant until Will Smith was very offended by a joke from presenter Chris Rock about the best actor’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
Rock was presenting the Best Documentary award when he joked with Smith that he was looking forward to a sequel to GI Jane. Smith then got up from his seat near the stage, walked over to Rock and slapped him.
After he sat back down, Smith yelled at Rock to “keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”
The moment shocked audiences at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles and viewers at home.
Before that, the show was going pretty well.
Rock’s comment referenced Pinkett’s hair loss. In 2018, the actress revealed that she had been diagnosed with alopecia, an autoimmune disease.
She has frequently posted about her struggles with the disease on social media, and in July 2021, she and daughter Willow shaved their heads.
Exchange of references for the Oscar speech
About 30 minutes later, Smith referenced the moment while accepting the Oscar for Best Actor, for his performance in King Richard, the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams.
“Richard Williams was a fierce advocate for his family,” Smith said.
“I have been called in my life to love people and to protect them, and to be a river to my people. I know that to do what we do, you have to be able to take abuse. people talk about it like crazy People disrespect you and smile like everything is fine.
Smith later said actor Denzel Washington pulled him aside after the incident, telling him, “At your highest point, be careful, that’s where the devil is coming for you.”
“I want to apologize to the academy, I want to apologize to all of my fellow nominees,” Smith said in tears during her Oscars speech.