Will Smith’s Oscar night slap shocks and divides celeb audience

Actor Will Smith walked on stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock after a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

Will Smith slaps Chris Rock
Will Smith, right, hits presenter Chris Rock on stage while presenting the award for best documentary feature at the Oscars. [Chris Pizzello/The Associated Press]

International celebrities have reacted with shock, condemnation, and in some cases, praise, after actor Will Smith walked on stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock during the Oscars in Los Angeles.

The altercation, which played out on live television in front a gobsmacked audience of fellow actors at the 94th Academy Awards on Sunday night, came after Rock joked about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, likening her to the movie character GI Jane.

Pinkett Smith, who has been married to Will Smith 1997, has spoken publicly about her struggles with alopecia, an autoimmune condition that results in hair loss, and her decision to shave her head.

After the attack, Smith, who went on to win the best actor award for his performance in King Richard, in which he played the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, returned to his seat, yelling at Rock, “Take my wife’s name out of your f****** mouth”.

“Wow, Will Smith just smacked the s*** outta me,” said a stunned Rock, who took a moment to collect himself before resuming presenting the nominees for best documentary feature.

Rock declined to press charges, according to US media. Rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs later told the New York Post that the duo had squashed the bad blood, saying, “That’s over. I can confirm that”.

During his acceptance speech, Smith apologised to the Academy and his “fellow nominees”, but did not reference Rock directly. Instead, he likened himself to the character he portrayed in the film.

“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” Smith said. “In this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world.”

“Art imitates life,” he added. “I looked like the crazy father, just like they said. But love will make you do crazy things.”

Neither entertainer has since publicly addressed the situation.

However, others have weighed in, with the Smiths’ son, Jaden Smith, tweeting after the imbroglio, “that’s how we do”.

Comedian Tiffany Haddish told a Los Angeles Times reporter, “I think Chris was messy.”

“As a woman who had a husb[and], I wish my husb[and] wld [would] have stood up 4 me the way [Will] stood up for [Jada],” she said, according to the reporter’s tweet. “That’s what every woman wants, right? She was hurt. And he protected his wife. And that’s what a man is supposed to do.”

Others condemned the violence, with filmmaker Rob Reiner tweeting “Will Smith owes Chris Rock a huge apology”.

“There is no excuse for what he did. He’s lucky Chris is not filing assault charges,” he wrote. “The excuses he made tonight were bulls***.”

The actress Sophia Bush made a similar argument, and said that “violence isn’t okay. Assault is never the answer.”

She added: “Punching down at someone’s auto-immune disease is wrong. Doing so on purpose is cruel. They both need a breather.”

On Monday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Oscars, said in a statement that it “condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night’s show”.

“We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law,” the academy said, as reported by US media.

Source: Al Jazeera