Will Smith used his acceptance speech for his first Academy Award to defend storming onto the Oscars stage and slapping presenter Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s haircut.
Smith on Sunday won Best Actor for his portrayal of Richard Williams, the determined father who raised tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams, in ‘King Richard.’
But his first Oscar win was completely overshadowed by the assault.
Smith was still allowed to make his acceptance speech and, with tears streaming down his face, he made an emotional defense of hitting Rock for his comment about Pinkett Smith’s hair, who suffers from hair loss condition alopecia.
‘Love makes you do crazy things’, he admitted, before admitting that being a Hollywood star means you should be able to ‘have people disrespecting you’.
‘You just gotta smile and pretend it’s ok,’ he said, but he said he admired Richard Williams who ‘was a fierce defender of his family.’
‘I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people,’ he added.
Smith went on to issue a tearful partial apology for his emotional outburst, but did not apologize to Rock. ‘I want to apologize to the Academy, I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees. This is a beautiful moment,’ he said.
‘Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father’ said Smith.
Late Sunday night, the LAPD issued a statement saying that Rock had not filed a police report against Smith, but that if he chooses to do so, police will investigate.
‘LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,’ the statement said. ‘The incident involved one individual slapping another.’
It was not immediately clear whether the Academy would penalize Smith in any way for his outburst.
The slapping incident occurred after Rock cracked jokes about the ‘GI Jane’ haircut – who famously had a shaved head, of Pinkett Smith.
The shocking scene, broadcast live around the world, stunned both the live audience at the Dolby Theatre and TV viewers.
After Smith strode out on stage and slapped Rock with an open right hand, Rock staggered and exclaimed ‘wow, Will Smith just smacked the s**t out of me.’
Smith, visibly emotional, walked back to his seat in the audience and shouted: ‘Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth.’
The exchange was muted on a delayed telecast in much of the US, but was aired in full to some international audiences.
The that sparked it all, was when Rock looked at Jada, who has a shaved head, and said: ‘Jada, can’t wait for GI Jane 2’, prompting the actress to roll her eyes. Pinkett Smith has been grappling with hair loss since revealing her alopecia diagnosis in 2018.
After being slapped, Rock appeared shocked and flustered as he tried to resume presenting the best documentary feature category.
‘That was the greatest night in the history of television,’ Rock said, before awkwardly returning to presenting best documentary, which went to Questlove’s ‘Summer of Soul (…or When the Revolution Was Not Televised).’
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