As the 94th Academy Awards neared its end, one of the biggest surprises rocked the night: An intense exchange after Will Smith confronted Chris Rock on stage after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair. Just minutes later, Smith won his first Oscar, taking home Best Actor for his role in “King Richard.”
Rock joked that he was looking forward to a sequel to “G.I. Jane” starring Pinkett Smith, leading Will Smith to make his way to the stage and smack Rock.
After returning to his seat, Smith shouted to Rock to “keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth.” The exchange came as a surprise to many in the audience, as actress Lupita Nyong’o, who was seated near Smith, and could be seen on camera, looked completely shocked. ABC silenced the audio of exchange due to the profanity, leaving viewers watching at home initially confused about what happened.
Will Smith later apologized, without directly mentioning the earlier confrontation, to the Academy and his fellow Best Actor nominees while accepting the award. He said Richard Williams, whom he portrays in “King Richard,” was a “fierce defender of his family.”
“I want to apologize to the Academy,” Smith said. “I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees. This is a beautiful moment and I’m not crying for winning an award. It’s not about winning an award for me. It’s about being able to shine a light on all of the people. Tim and Trevor and Zack and Saniyya and Demi and Aunjanue and the entire cast and crew of ‘King Richard,’ Venus and Serena, the entire Williams family. Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams.”
The Los Angeles Police Department issued a statement after the show ended saying that they are “aware of incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program.” According to the LAPD, Rock declined to file a police report. “If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report,” police said.
The Academy Awards tweeted early Monday that it “does not condone violence of any form. Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Awards winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.”
Pinkett Smith has spoken publicly about her hair loss due to the autoimmune disease alopecia. In 2018, Pinkett Smith opened up during an episode of her show, “Red Table Talk,” saying “It was terrifying when it first started. I was in the shower one day and had just handfuls of hair in my hands and I was just like ‘Oh my God, am I going bald?'”