As viewers were still processing an incident in which Will Smith walked onstage at the Oscars and slapped Chris Rock for making a joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith, the King Richard star was announced as the night’s Best Actor winner.
An emotional Smith took the stage, tears in his eyes, and apologized to the Academy and many others, but not to Rock. Smith drew parallels between the moment he was having and the life of the man he played onscreen — Richard Williams, father to Serena and Venus.
“I’m not crying for winning an award, it’s not about winning an award for me,” said Smith. “It’s about being able to shine light on all of the people. Art imitates life, I look like the crazy father just like they said about Mr. Williams. Love makes you do crazy things.”
Smith talked about having the privilege to “protect” co-star Aunjanue Ellis, who played Serena and Venus’ mother Oracene ‘Brandy’ Williams in the film. Of having the privilege to protect the actresses who played the superstar sisters, Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton.
Watch his speech above.
“I’m being called on in my life to love people, and to protect people,” he continued, “and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do [as actors] you gotta be able to take abuse. You gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you. You gotta be able to have people disrespecting you. And you gotta smile and pretend that’s ok.”
Smith then looked to his right and said “Thank you D,” to fellow Oscar winner Denzel Washington, who was sitting up front with tears in his own eyes. “Denzel said to me a few minutes ago, “At your highest moment, be careful, because that’s when the devil comes for you.”
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He then took a long pause and gathered himself.
“I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to my fellow nominees. This is a beautiful moment.
“To my mother — this moment is really complicated for me — to my mother…being able to love and care for my mother and my family, my wife,” he said, motioning to Jada, who sat beaming in the audience.
“Thank you for this honor, thank you for this moment and thank you on behalf of the entire Williams family…I hope the Academy invites me back.
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