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‘Love Will Make You Do Crazy Things’: Will Smith Defends Himself for Hitting Chris Rock at the Oscars

The most shocking moment in the 94th Academy Awards was one of the Oscars’ most jaw-dropping moments in its entire history. Actor Will Smith walked on stage and smacked comedian Chris Rock in the face after the presenter made a G.I. joke about Jada Pinkett-Smith, Will Smith’s wife.

Jada Pinkett-Smith was sporting a shaved head at the ceremony, presumably due to the affliction known as alopecia (which she was diagnosed with in 2018), and when Chris Rock made an insensitive joke, actor Will Smith did not tolerate it — and he spoke indirectly about the Chris Rock slap when he won the Oscar for Best Actor (in King Richard) shortly after!

Will Smith did apologize to the Academy and his fellow Oscar nominees, adding somewhat jokingly that he hoped he would be invited back to the Oscars in the future despite the altercation, but he seemed to remain steadfast about his defense of his wife.

“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” Will Smith said in his Oscars speech. Richard Williams is the father of tennis players Serena Williams and Venus Williams, and he is played by Will Smith in King Richard.

“In this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world. Making this film, I got to project Aunjanue Ellis, who is one of the most strongest, most delicate people I’ve ever met. I got to protect Saniyya and Demi, the two actresses that 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”.

Academy Awards

Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes took the stage to co-host the 94th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles and Hollywood. Credit: D23

Actor Will Smith then directly acknowledged the pressure and public relations obligations that celebrities face. “I know to do what we do, you got to be able to take abuse. You got to be able to have people talk crazy about you,” the Oscar winner said, presumably starting to reference Chris Rock. “In this business, you got to be able to have people disrespecting you. And you got to smile, you got to pretend like that’s okay.”

This statement is particularly appropriate at the 94th Academy Awards, since the awards ceremony seemed to feature a lot of ‘roasting’ and jokes made at the expense of the Oscar nominees by Oscars hosts Amy Schumer, Regina Hall, and Wanda Sykes. This has also been a common practice at previous Academy Awards.

If you watch the footage of the scene when Will Smith slaps Chris Rock, it does look like Will Smith is trying to laugh off Chris Rock’s joke initially (essentially, to do exactly what he mentioned in his acceptance speech and “pretend like that’s okay”). But then Will Smith seems to decide that enough is enough in that department, which leads to him hitting Chris Rock on stage and swearing at him. Since the footage was not censored in many other countries, the full versions of the footage can easily be found on Twitter.

“Denzel [Washington] said to me a few minutes ago, he said ‘at your highest moment, be careful; that’s when the Devil comes for you’,” the actor added in his speech. Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry were seen comforting Will during the commercial break right after the slap, in between Will’s continuous holding of his wife’s hand.

“It’s like I want to be a vessel for love…I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern…art imitates life,” he joked. “I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams — but love will make you do crazy things.”

He then thanked Venus Williams and Serena Williams as well as the rest of the Williams family, as well as his mother. “This moment is really complicated for me,” the Oscar-winning actor said, but he returned the focus to “being able to love and care for my mother and my family and my wife” before thanking the Academy for “this honor” and joking about being invited back next year.

Will Smith received a lot of love from other celebrities during the rest of the Oscars and the Vanity Fair Oscars afterparty (which he and Jada Pinkett-Smith did attend). Hamilton actor Leslie Odom Jr. expressed support for Will Smith and empathized with him at the party, saying the following: “This business can sometimes feel like walking around with your skin ripped off. It’s a very vulnerable thing, and so I think we saw two artists with their hearts open. It’s a vulnerable moment, sometimes it’s messy, but it’s always beautiful when it’s the truth.”

Will Smith’s son Jaden Smith also supported his father’s actions in the Tweet below.

Other memorable moments from the 94th Academy Awards included Ariana DeBose winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Maria in West Side Story, a live performance of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from Encanto, Jessica Chastain winning the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her role in The Eyes of Tammy Faye,  CODA winning Best Picture, and Encanto winning Best Animated Feature Film (although it did lose in the Best Original Song category).

 

 

About Sharon

Sharon is a writer and animal lover from New England. Sharon's two main focuses in her work are Disney's correlations with pop culture and the significance of Disney princesses (which was the basis for her college thesis). When she's not writing about Disney, Sharon spends her time singing, dancing, and cavorting with woodland creatures!