Will Smith’s Oscars Slap & How the Oscars Handled
One of the most notorious moments in the history of the Academy Awards, known as “the slap,” captivated the world during the 2022 Oscars when Will Smith struck Chris Rock on stage. The incident occurred after Chris Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith’s wife, with reference to her bald head due to alopecia, an autoimmune skin disease causing hair loss. The controversial moment left audiences stunned and sparked a whirlwind of reactions.
When did Will Smith slap Chris Rock?
The incident unfolded during the 2022 Oscars ceremony when Chris Rock appeared on stage to present the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. While he was giving the introduction, Chris Rock told a joke regarding a potential G.I. Jane sequel, which alluded to Jada Pinkett Smith’s appearance. While Smith initially appeared to laugh, Pinkett Smith reacted with visible irritation. In response to the joke, Will Smith walked on the stage and slapped Chris Rock before returning to his seat, leaving the audience bewildered about whether it was part of the script or an actual altercation. Rock, with his signature deadpan delivery, remarked to the audience, “Will Smith just slapped the fuck out of me.” Smith then shouted from his seat, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” to which Rock replied with a humorous tone. Smith reiterated his previous statement, and the tension remained palpable.
The Academy’s response
In response to the slap, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Board of Governors banned Smith from attending any Academy events, including the Oscars, for ten years. Will Smith had already resigned from the Academy a week prior to the disciplinary actions being announced. While Will Smith is banned from the Oscars, many people wondered if they would take back Will Smith’s Oscar award too. However, he was allowed to keep the statue.
Chris Rock’s response
In the aftermath of the slap, Chris Rock addressed the incident in various comedy shows but didn’t file a formal police report against Will Smith. During Selective Outrage, his Netflix special that went live a week before the 2023 Oscars, Rock delved into the subject in-depth. Despite acknowledging that the slap still hurt, Rock humorously dismissed any notion of being a victim, proclaiming that he would not resort to public emotional displays like crying on talk shows. He playfully highlighted the physical disparity between himself and Smith, emphasizing Smith’s muscular physique, often showcased in movies. Rock also humorously referenced Smith’s role as Muhammad Ali, juxtaposing it with his role as Pookie in New Jack City. Rock later also brought up Jada Pinkett Smith’s affair with August Alsina as part of his response to Smith’s outrage.
Will Smith’s apologies
Will Smith publicly apologized for the incident twice. Initially, he issued a written apology the day after the Oscars, characterizing his behavior as inexcusable and unacceptable and condemning all forms of violence. He followed up with another on-camera apology in a video on YouTube in July. Smith explained that he reached out to Rock to apologize, but Rock wasn’t ready to discuss it. Despite feeling fogged out during the incident, Smith expressed remorse and offered a sincere apology to Rock.
Jada Pinkett Smith’s reaction
Two months after the incident, Jada Pinkett Smith finally addressed the slap on her talk show called Red Table Talk. She advocated for compassion for both Will Smith and Chris Rock and expressed hope for healing and reconciliation between the two men. Pinkett Smith also used the opportunity to discuss the challenges faced by people with alopecia, inviting guests to share their experiences.