Hollywood in shock after Will Smith slaps Chris Rock at Oscars

Published: 09:46 PM, 28 Mar, 2022
Hollywood in shock after Will Smith slaps Chris Rock at Oscars
Caption: US actor Will Smith accepts the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for "King Richard" onstage during the 94th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
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It was supposed to be a celebration of Hollywood filmmaking, but Will Smith hitting Chris Rock over a joke about his wife provided the evening's most talked-about drama and a moment that will go down in Oscars history.

Celebrities from Tinseltown and beyond reacted with shock and stunned amazement to Smith's outburst, with some defending the best actor winner and others condemning his "toxic masculinity."

The 94th Academy Awards was in its final hour when actor and comedian Rock made a joke on stage about Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, starring in "G.I. Jane 2" -- apparently poking fun at her shaved head. 

Pinkett Smith, who suffers from alopecia, didn't laugh and her 53-year-old husband stormed onstage, smacking Rock with an open hand before returning to his seat. 

Smith tearfully apologized to his fellow nominees and the Academy -- but not Rock -- a few minutes later as he accepted the Oscar for best actor for "King Richard."

"Love will make you do crazy things," he said. He revealed that Denzel Washington had told him after the incident: "At your highest, that's when the devil comes for you."

The stunned expressions of celebrities in the room, including Nicole Kidman and Lupita Nyong'o, became instant meme fodder, while outside the auditorium stars immediately weighed in to condemn Smith.

"He could have killed him. That's pure out of control rage and violence," filmmaker Judd Apatow said in a tweet he later deleted.

"Spinal Tap" director Rob Reiner dismissed Smith's apology, calling for the star to show remorse to Rock personally and adding that the "Fresh Prince" star was "lucky Chris is not filing assault charges."

Actress Mia Farrow and British TV personality Piers Morgan both called it the Oscars' "ugliest moment."

"Stand-up comics are very adept at handling hecklers. Violent physical assault... not so much," "Star Wars" icon Mark Hamill chipped in.

Narcissistic madman

The comedy world was quick to rally to Rock's side, complaining that Smith's outburst could spark copycat behavior, endangering other stand-ups. 

Emmy Award-winning Rosie O'Donnell called out a "sad display of toxic masculinity from a narcissistic madman," while Kathy Griffin added: "Now we all have to worry about who wants to be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theaters."

From the literary world, Booker prize-winning author Bernadine Evaristo suggested that Smith had not just wrecked what should have been his greatest triumph, but had also sullied his legacy.

"Only the fifth black man in nearly 100 years to win an Oscar for male lead, and the first in 16 years, resorts to violence instead of utilizing the power of words to slay Chris Rock. Then he claims God and Love made him do it," she said.

Smith, who rose to fame in 1990s sit-com "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," has a history of antagonism with Rock going back almost a decade, since the comedian took a swing at Pinkett Smith over the couple's boycott of the 2016 Oscars.

But rapper and producer Sean "Diddy" Combs indicated Sunday's acrimony was short-lived, telling Page Six: "That's not a problem. That's over. I can confirm that."

"It's all love. They're brothers."

Some celebrities came to Smith's defense, with former One Direction singer Liam Payne telling reporters: "I believe whatever he felt that he did, he had the right to do."

Massachusetts lawmaker Ayanna Pressley, who lost her hair due to alopecia, enthused in a since-deleted tweet: "#Alopecia nation stand up! Thank you #WillSmith. Shout out to all the husbands who defend their wives living with alopecia in the face of daily ignorance & insults."

And while they are not known for their scintillating humor, it was another politician who had perhaps the most amusing, light-hearted take on events.

"Well, now you know why we had to get him out of Philly to go live with his aunt and uncle in Bel Air," said congressman Brandan Boyle, who represents northeast Philadelphia.


Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.