Oscar winner Will Smith apologized to Chris Rock today for slapping him onstage at the Oscars after the comedian made an unscripted joke about the actor’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith and her hairstyle.
“Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally,” said Smith in an online post this afternoon.
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Pinkett Smith has alopecia, and has been public about it, talking on TikTok about her struggles, and saying, “I don’t give two craps what people feel about this bald head of mine.” In addition, Smith apologized to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Oscar show producers, the Williams family and “my King Richard Family.”
Saying bluntly, “I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong,” here is what Smith wrote just now on Instagram:
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Coming less than 24 hours after the assault seen by millions, the apology from the King Richard star arrived as the backlash against Smith’s violent actions was intensifying.
As the likes of Oscars producer Will Packer and SAG-AFTRA weighed in, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced earlier today that it has opened a formal review and investigation into the incident. While there is no chance Smith could lose his Oscar, a full-on Board of Governors meeting scheduled for May 30 surely will see a lot of questions asked about why the actor was not removed from his front row seat at the Dolby Theatre after striking Rock.
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Discussions among the slow-to-respond producers and organizers saw the backstage debate continuing about what to do become moot when, 40 minutes after The Slap, Smith was onstage again accepting his Best Actor Award. In an emotional but often self-justifying speech, a tearful Smith made a point of apologizing to almost everyone but Rock.
Getting in hot water with AMPAS couldn’t come at a worse time as the actor’s star was rising anew with franchise movies like Aladdin, which became his highest-grossing movie at $1.05 billion, and Sony’s Bad Boys for Life just before Covid hit, which grossed over $426M worldwide.
With Apple taking home Best Picture for CODA, no doubt that the streamer will be back in future Oscar races. One particular potential awards-bait title is Emancipation, the Antoine Fuqua-directed package with Smith that Apple shelled out $120M for, as Deadline first reported. The movie follows Smith as a runaway slave forced to outwit cold-blooded hunters and the unforgiving swamps of Louisiana on a tortuous journey north, where he joins the Union Army. Any dinging of Smith by AMPAS would create headwinds for what is expected to be a prestigious and respectable feature.
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SAG-AFTRA, which gave its Best Actor award to Smith for King Richard, issued a pointed statement today saying: “Violence or physical abuse in the workplace is never appropriate and the union condemns any such conduct. The incident involving Will Smith and Chris Rock at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable.”
In the wake of the incident, which saw an animated Smith comforted by Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry in the immediate aftermath, a number of comedians have rallied around Rock on social media. Kathy Griffin who was among the first to speak out strongly, expressed a future concern which many stand-ups echoed: “Let me tell you something,” she wrote, “it’s a very bad practice to walk up on stage and physically assault a Comedian. Now we all have to worry about who wants to be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theaters.”
Often known as one of Tinseltown’s most affable superstars, the former Fresh Prince’s online mea culpa likely will end any speculation that Rock still could file a police report. Rock was contacted by LAPD officers on the scene at the Hollywood & Highland venue soon after the altercation with Smith occurred. He declined at the time to file a report. However, the Fargo star does have up to six months to change his mind.
In California, an assault like what Smith battered Rock with is considered a misdemeanor that’s punishable by up to six months in jail and a $100,000 fine. Looking to avoid censure or suspension from AMPAS out of their probe, even the faint possibility of such a punishment through the courts isn’t something the usually strategic Smith wants to give much oxygen to.
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