(NewsNation) — Will Smith won his first Academy Award Sunday but everyone can’t stop talking about his scene-stealing exchange with Chris Rock.
The “King Richard” actor smacked the comedian on the Oscars stage after a bad joke about his wife.
The exchange began when Rock took aim at Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, saying, “Jada, I love you. ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it, all right?” Rock’s reference was made from the 1997 film “G.I. Jane,” starring Demi Moore, who shaved her head to portray a fictional Navy Seal candidate.
Cameras caught Pinkett Smith visibly upset. The joke missed, badly.
Smith then walked onto the stage from his front-row seat and struck Rock in the face. Smith walked back to his seat and shouted for Rock to leave Pinkett Smith alone. Rock replied that he was just making a “G.I. Jane” joke — and Smith yelled back at him a second time.
Smith shouted at Rock to, “Keep my wife’s name out of your (expletive) mouth,” and the crowd hushed as it became clear this was no act.
Pinkett Smith revealed in 2018 that she was diagnosed with alopecia. She has often discussed the challenges of hair loss on Instagram and her “Red Table Talk.”
“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” Smith said as he began his acceptance speech after winning best actor honors. He apologized afterward to many people, including tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, Richard Williams’ daughters, but did not mention Rock in his apology.
Smith then spoke about being a protector for those who worked with him on the film such as Aunjanue Ellis along with Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton, the two actors who played Venus and Serena.
“I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people,” said Smith during his acceptance speech after winning his first-ever Oscar. “I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse. You’ve got to be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you’ve got to be able to have people disrespecting you. And you’ve got to smile and pretend like that’s OK.”
“I’m hoping the Academy invites me back,” Will Smith added, as he concluded his on-stage remarks.
The moment shocked the Dolby Theatre audience and viewers at home. At the commercial break, presenter Daniel Kaluuya came up to hug Smith, and Denzel Washington escorted him to the side of the stage. The two talked and hugged and Tyler Perry came over to talk as well.
Smith shared what Washington told him: “At your highest moment, be careful because that’s when the devil comes for you.”
A representative for Rock didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
After the show, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences issued a statement saying it “does not condone violence of any form.”
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.”