UPDATE: On Monday afternoon, following much fallout from the Will Smith-Chris Rock incident, the Academy announced in a statement that it’s starting an investigation into what took place.
“The Academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night’s show,” reads the statement. “We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore future action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law.”
The altercation — by most reports a real incident and not a staged one — occurred Sunday during the 94th Academy Awards broadcast when comedian Chris Rock, 57, made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, while presenting the award for Documentary Feature (won by Summer of Soul).
“Jada, I love you. G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see it, all right?” Rock joked, referencing the 1997 film G.I. Jane starring Demi Moore, who shaved her head to portray a fictional Navy Seal candidate.
Pinkett Smith, 50, who has publicly spoken about her struggles with alopecia, was visibly unimpressed by the joke.
Smith, 53, walked onto the stage from his front-row seat and took a swing at Rock with an open palm, generating a loud smack. 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.
“Keep my wife’s name out of your f–king mouth!” Smith shouted, and the crowd hushed as it became clear this was no act. The auditorium was pin-drop silent.
During the commercial break, Smith was comforted by several other actors including Denzel Washington and Bradley Cooper. It’s unclear where Rock went after the incident. As of this writing, he has not commented publicly.
A short time later, Will Smith won Best Actor for his work in the movie King Richard, and delivered an intense monologue that included an apology to his “fellow nominees.”
“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” Smith said in his first remarks. He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people.”
Smith also shared what Washington told him: “At your highest moment, be careful because that’s when the devil comes for you.”
Ultimately, Smith apologized to the Academy and to his fellow nominees (but notably not directly to Rock).
“Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father,” Smith said. “But love will make you do crazy things.”
At the end of his speech, Smith joked that he hopes the Academy will invite him back.
Following the ceremony, Smith seemed no worse for wear as he celebrated with family and friends at the Vanity Fair Oscar party. The actor was seen waving his Best Actor trophy in the air as he rapped and danced along to a mash-up of his own songs, from Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It to Summertime.
Two hours after the Oscars ceremony wrapped, the Academy took to Twitter to release a brief statement about the Smith-Rock incident.
The LAPD also released a statement about the televised slap, sharing that Rock had not pressed charges.
“LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” a representative for the LAPD said. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. 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.”
The reactions of those in Hollywood were quite divided. For some, the incident was not just shocking or cringe-worthy, it was offensive. For others, Smith was well within his rights.
In a now-deleted tweet from Superbad and The 40-Year-Old Virgin director Judd Apatow, he condemned Smith’s actions.
Others criticized Smith for displaying “toxic masculinity.”
Regardless, as is usually the way with these things, social media is having a bit of fun at Smith and Rock’s expense, producing memes about the now-famous “Will Smith slap.” Even rapper 50 Cent got in on the fun.
One thing’s for certain: No one will forget this Oscars ceremony anytime soon.
— With files from The Associated Press