Will Smith struck comedian Chris Rock during a jaw-dropping onstage exchange after the comedian made a joke about the “King Richard” star’s wife at the Oscars.
“Jada, I love ya. ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it,” Rock said while presenting an award during Sunday’s Oscars ceremony from Los Angeles. The reference was about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who sports a bald head like the character in Demi Moore’s 1997 film, “G.I. Jane.”
Pinkett Smith revealed in 2018 that she had alopecia areata, a disease that causes hair loss.
Smith then ascended the stairs to the Oscars stage and approached Rock, as the audience applauded. But then, the 53-old actor took a swing at the seemingly stunned Rock before returning to his seat.
The audio feed for the awards ceremony cut out in the U.S. broadcast, as Smith exchanged words with Rock from his chair.
In clips of foreign broadcasts shared on Twitter, Rock said, “Wow, Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me” as Smith walked away.
Smith could then be heard yelling at Rock: “Keep my wife’s name out of your f–king mouth!”
“That was uh…greatest night in the history of television,” Rock, 57, said, before not making any further reference on-air to the incident.
Smith was later seen grinning and clapping during the awards show.
When rapper Diddy took to the stage, he said, “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve that like family” at a post-awards show party.
“But right now, we’re moving on with love,” Diddy said, as Smith applauded.
Minutes after the altercation, Smith took to the stage again — as the Oscar winner in the “Best Actor” category.
“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” Smith said of the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, the title role he played in “King Richard.”
Without making mention of Rock, Smith appeared to reference the incident, saying through tears, “I know to do what we do, you got to be able to take abuse. You gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you gotta be able to have people disrespecting you, and you gotta smile and pretend like that’s OK,” Smith said.
“I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees,” Smith continued, saying he wanted to be a “vessel for love.”
“Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father,” Smith said, “just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things.”
“I hope the Academy invites me back,” he said before walking offstage with his award in hand.