How panicking Oscar bosses raced to regain control after Will Smith smacked Chris Rock in the face: Outburst sparked frantic 45 minutes of backstage scrambling as they cut audio and told reporters not to ask about it but let star stay for Best Actor gong
Oscars showrunners went to panic stations last night as they tried to keep the Academy Awards on track after Hollywood superstar Will Smith shocked everyone by smacking fellow actor and comedian Chris Rock – live and on stage.
In what will likely go down as one of the most watched moments in the history of the awards, Smith stormed the stage after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife’s hair loss, before shouting ‘keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth.’
But despite the incident upstaging the 3-1/2 hour show, Academy showrunners ploughed on as if nothing had happened, and opted not to eject Smith from the event only for him to receive the best actor award 45 minutes later.
With the Oscars broadcast on a short time delay, ABC quickly cut the audio for 20 seconds in an attempt to avoid embarrassment. Having just been slapped, Rock was left on stage to finish his presentation for the documentary feature award.
At the next commercial break, Hollywood A-listers rushed to calm Smith down, with videos from inside the Dolby Theatre showing actors Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry speaking to an emotional Smith off-stage.
Bradley Cooper was also seen hugging Smith, who was sitting just yards away from the stage where Rock had been presenting the award.
After speaking to Cooper, Smith returned to his seat and was seen dabbing his eyes with a white cloth before his publicist appeared quickly by his side. This year’s show producer Will Packer also reportedly had a conversation with Smith at his table.
Parker is likely the person who made the decision to allow the Hollywood goldenboy to remain in the theatre, but only two people – the two accountants who tabulate the votes – knew who has won the prizes before they are announced.
Therefore, it appears the showrunners made the decision to allow Smith to remain in the audience on the basis that he might go on to win the award.
Meanwhile, to understand what happened, viewers flooded to social media to find the clip – broadcast uncensored in other countries – that has already been viewed tens of millions of times. They did so as ABC scrambled to keep hold of their viewers, while continuing as if nothing had happened.
Almost two hours after the incident, the Academy released a timid statement condemning violence, while comedian and presenter for the night Amy Schumer made a small reference to the slap – asking the audience: ‘did I miss anything?’
In an attempt to keep it under-wraps, it was later reported that journalists had been asked by Academy staff not to ask other actors about Smith’s outburst, and Smith did not go to his post-award press conference.
Will Smith slaps Chris Rock onstage during the show at the 94th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood on Sunday, March 27, 2022
Pictured: Will Smith’s publicist Meredith O. Sullivan kneels beside him during a commercial break, talking to him after he slapped Chris Rock on stage
Pictured: During a commercial break, Chris Rock appeared to try and apologize to Smith. Actor Denzel Washington stood between the pair (pictured)
In the seconds that followed the slap, most presumed what they had seen was a joke between the pair, but when Smith yelled for Rock to ‘keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth,’ for a second time, it became clear this was no gag.
Behind the scenes, Academy staffers and journalists were just as stunned as the audience of Hollywood’s most famous faces. According a BBC reporter, one of the staffers turned to another and said: ‘I thought they were doing a bit.’
About 20 seconds of audio from the show, broadcast by ABC on a time-delay of a few seconds in the United States, was frantically cut from the live transmission for many viewers because of the language.
But it was audible in some broadcasts, for example in Japan and Australia.
The award for the best documentary feature was given to Questlove’s ‘Summer of Soul’. The winner accepted the award, before Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs took to the stage to present a celebration of the Godfather’s 50th anniversary.
He attempted to breathe some life back into the stunned theatre.
‘I did not know that this year was gonna be the most exciting Oscars ever,’ he said. ‘OK, Will and Chris, we’re going to solve that like family at the Gold Party. But right now we’re moving on with love – everybody, make some noise!’
In the following commercial break, the gravity of the moment appeared to take hold of the theatre. Pictures showed Rock attempted to approach Smith with his hand in front of him, possibly in an attempt to apologize.
However, it did not appear that Rock was able to have a conversation with Smith, with actor Denzel Washington standing between the pair.
Videos recorded by some in the audience showed people rushing to Will Smith’s side, including his publicist Meredith O. Sullivan who had a swift conversation with him. She continued to visit him during each commercial break.
Show producer Will Packer also had a conversation with Smith at his table, Ramin Setoodeh – executive editor of Variety – reported.
Presenter Daniel Kaluuya came up to hug Smith, and Washington escorted Smith – as he wiped away tears – to the side of the stage. The two talked and hugged and Tyler Perry came over to talk as well.
Video shot from the gallery also showed actor Bradley Cooper talking to Smith, seemingly giving him a pep talk before the pair embraced.
Denzel Washington comforts Will Smith during a commercial break in the 94th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood on Sunday, March 27, 2022
Denzel Washington and US actor-producer Tyler Perry comfort Will Smith after he stormed the stage on Sunday night and slapped Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife’s hairloss
Bradley Cooper comforts Will Smith on Sunday night after the shocking incident
US actor Will Smith accepts the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for ‘King Richard’ onstage during the 94th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood
Keith Urban also hugged Smith during one stoppage in the show, and Nicole Kidman also went over to say a few words as well.
Pictures of others in the audience showed a scene of shock, confusion and nervousness, with many unsure how the show could go on.
That could have been the end of the incident, were it not for Smith then going on to win his first Oscar for his role in ‘King Richard’.
He took to the stage about 45 minutes after the altercation, and apologized to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and his fellow nominees in a tear-filled speech, but not to Rock.
He seized the opportunity to speak on being a fierce defender just like his tennis dad character Richard Williams from ‘King Richard.’
Smith said he felt like the protector of many – including his wife.
‘Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,’ Smith said as he began his acceptance speech after winning best actor honors. He apologized afterward to many people – including tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, Richard Williams’ daughters – but did not mention Rock in his apology.
Smith then spoke about being a protector for those who worked with him on the film such as Aunjanue Ellis along with Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton, the two actors who played Venus and Serena.
‘I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people,’ said Smith during his acceptance speech after winning his first-ever Oscar.
‘I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse. You’ve got to be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you’ve got to be able to have people disrespecting you. And you’ve got to smile and pretend like that’s OK.’
Smith shared what Denzel Washington told him moments before: ‘At your highest moment, be careful because that’s when the devil comes for you. ‘I’m hoping the Academy invites me back,’ Smith added, as he concluded his on-stage remarks.
Reports said that Smith then did not go to the following press presentation that is customary of award winners to attend. It was unclear whether this was his choice, or if the showrunners wanted to keep him out of the hot seat.
Soon after Smith’s acceptance speech, actress and comedian Amy Schumer jokingly addressed the incident.
After an earlier sketch which saw her dressed as Spider Man, she said: ‘I’ve been getting out of the Spider-Man costume… did I miss anything?
‘There’s, like, a different vibe in here. Probably not… well anyway,’ she added, as Smith was seen laughing in the background.
Almost two hours after the incident, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences issued a statement saying it ‘does not condone violence of any form’
Soon after Smith’s acceptance speech, actress and comedian Amy Schumer jokingly addressed the incident. She asked the audience: ‘Did I miss anything?’
Oscars show producer Will Packer (pictured) reportedly had a conversation with Smith at his table and is likely the person who made the final call on not to eject Smith from the event
Vanity Fair’s Setoodeh, who was tweeting live from the ceremony, said that someone who works for the Oscars told him that Rock was not interrupted by Smith at rehearsals yesterday. ‘It was not supposed to happen. It was real,’ he wrote.
He also confirmed that Will Packer spoke to Smith at his table. ‘Oscar producer Will Packer came by Will Smith’s table and said something to him,’ he tweeted, adding: ‘His publicist has been talking to him at every commercial break.’
Reports have suggested that there has been a long-running feud between Smith and Rock – who has made jokes in the past about Smith’s wife.
Almost two hours after the incident, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences issued a statement saying 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,’ it added. Replies to the post criticized the Academy for not rejecting Smith.
The Last Samurai producer Marshall Herskovitz called on the Academy to do more.
‘I call upon the Academy, of which I am a member, to take disciplinary action against Will Smith. He disgraced our entire community tonight,’ he wrote on Twitter.
Others refused to be drawn into answering questions about the incident. ‘I’m not talking about that,’ said Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson, the director of ‘Summer of Soul,’ which won an Oscar for best documentary – the award Rock was in the middle of presenting when Smith stormed the stage.
Jennifer Chastain was reportedly in the process of asking a question on the slap, but an Academy staffer cut her off and moved on to the next question.
Journalists covering the awards ceremony from the press area were instructed not to ask any attendees about Smith slapping Rock, according to BBC correspondent David Sillito.
One reporter told ITV’s Good Morning Britain – a morning show in the UK – also said that he had been told not to ask actors questions about the slap.
‘A lot of these really big-names celebrities don’t want to be addressing the issue of Will Smith and Chris Rock,’ he told the show. ‘While I was asking the questions, I was getting poked in my back by Kevin Costner’s manager.’
The Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement that it was aware of the incident.
‘The incident involved one individual slapping another,’ the statement read.
‘The individual involved has 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.’ As of Monday morning, Rock had not filed a report.
It was not immediately clear whether the Academy would penalize Smith in any way for his outburst, as it faced calls to strip Smith of his award.
The moment Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on the Oscar’s stage
Sunday’s shocking Oscar’s incident began when Rock was roasting some of the nominees during the best documentary feature presentation, and made fun of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
‘Jada, I love you. ‘G.I. Jane II,’ can’t wait to see it,’ he said, referencing the 1997 film ‘G.I. Jane’ in which actress Demi Moore shaved her head.
It was unclear whether Rock, a comedian and actor, was aware that Smith’s wife suffers from a disease that causes hair loss. The joke missed, badly.
Smith appeared to laugh at first, while his wife rolled her eyes, looking unimpressed. Sitting right at the front of the audience, Smith suddenly stood up and marched toward the stage to confront the comedian.
Rock had his hands behind his back when Smith threw an open hand at his face that produced an audible smack, and in a form befitting an action movie star. Rock somehow stayed on his feet.
‘Oh, wow! Wow! Will Smith just smacked the s**t out of me,’ Rock said as Smith re-took his seat and the audience laughed, thinking it was a skit.
Smith then made what may become one of the most repeated phrases of Oscar history when he shouted, ‘Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth.’
Stunned by what had just happened, Rock told Smith it was only a joke. ‘Wow, dude,’ Rock said. ‘It was a ‘G.I. Jane’ joke.’
But Smith shouted his phrase a second time, louder and more deliberately.
At that point, many stars in the audience audibly gasped or fell silent. Spectators in the mezzanine stood up and craned their necks to try to catch a glimpse.
‘I’m going to. Okay?’ Rock said trying to calm the situation, shaking his head. ‘Okay.’
A visibly shaken Rock struggled to rescue the situation and get the show back on track. ‘That was the greatest night in the history of television,’ he said to an awkward smattering of applause and whistles.
He then went on to announce the winner of the documentary feature award, and after the presentation, the broadcast went to commercials.
The slapping incident occurred after Rock cracked jokes about the ‘GI Jane’ haircut of Pinkett Smith, referring to her shaved head. The shocking scene, broadcast live around the world, stunned both the live audience and TV viewers
After Smith strode out on stage and appeared to smack Rock with an open right hand, Rock staggered and exclaimed ‘wow, Will Smith just smacked the s**t out of me’
Moments later US actor Smith was seen swinging at the host of the 94th annual Academy Awards ceremony in LA
Smith, visibly emotional, walked back to his seat in the audience and shouted: ‘Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth’
Will Smith was later pictured arriving at the Vanity Fair afterparty with Jada Pinkett Smith. He reportedly posed for photographs for so long that a queue of about 30 guests formed, unable to get into the party.
The BBC’s Entertainment Correspondent Colin Paterson said he was ‘amazed’ that Smith arrived for the afterparty.
‘He wouldn’t speak to us. He definitely heard me shout his name,’ he wrote. ‘But the couple obviously decided they were going to come to the party and put on a brave face.’
The slapping episode upstaged the rest of the 3-1/2 hour show, and was sure to become one of the most memorable moments in 94 years of Academy Awards.
In the run-up to the event, this year’s broadcast producer Will Packer said he wanted to ‘shake things up’ as the Oscar’s continues its efforts to stay relevant.
Will Smith arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills
Packer told Vanity Fair’s Little Big Men podcast: ‘The biggest challenge is getting people to watch. What that means is there’s got to be something different about the show this year that connects with people outside of Hollywood. You’ve got to connect with the casual movie fan.’
The episode will not have been what he had in mind, but it is sure to become one of the most memorable moments in 94 years of Academy Awards, and upstaged the rest of the 3-1/2 hour show.
But it didn’t stop the Academy from trying to continue on as normal on a day that was anything but, and releasing a tepid statement almost two hours later.
The slap also overshadowed Smith’s milestone accomplishment. He was previously nominated twice for best actor, for his role in ‘Ali’ in 2002 and ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ in 2007. In those films, he portrayed real-life characters: Boxing legend Muhammad Ali and Chris Garner, a homeless salesman.
This time, Smith won against formidable competition including Andrew Garfield, Javier Bardem, Benedict Cumberbatch and Denzel Washington – who won his first and only best actor Oscar award in 2002 over Smith for ‘Training Day.’
Pinkett Smith was also the subject of jokes from Rock when he hosted the Oscars in 2016.
She did not attend the Oscars that year, saying at the time her decision stemmed from a lack of diversity among award nominees and how Black artists were not properly represented.
‘I think we have to sometimes remember, like at a certain point, everyone breaks,’ said TV personality Karamo Brown. ‘But I think these are two men that will actually come together, figure it out and like say `OK, enough is enough, I’m sorry.’ … I haven’t been in that situation. I never condone violence or anything of that nature, but I also could understand protecting those you love.’
Inside Will Smith and Chris Rock’s long-running feud: Comedian first made joke about actor’s wife Jada at 2016 Oscars and has continued take jabs at the couple
But it’s not the first time that the movie star has been antagonized by the comedian.
In fact, a feud has been brewing between the pair over the past five years thanks to repeated jokes made at Will’s expense.
When hosting the Oscars back in 2016, Chris got himself into trouble with the actor when he used Will’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith as joke material in his opening monologue.
Will Smith and Chris Rock’s beef explained: Comedian first made joke about actor’s wife Jada in 2016 Oscars and jibed him over exes
In an opening bit about diversity, Chris, 57, poked fun at Jada, 50, for boycotting the Oscars when Will failed to receive a nomination for the movie Concussion.
‘Jada got mad, said she’s not coming. Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited,’ Chris said.
‘You get mad. It’s not fair that Will was this good and didn’t get nominated. It’s also not fair that Will was paid $20 million for Wild Wild West.’
‘This year at the Oscars, things are going to be a little different. In the ‘in memoriam’ package it’s just going to be black people who were shot by the cops on their way to the movies. Yes, I said it, all right?’
Following the dig, TMZ had approached Will for comment but he remain silent and refused to answer.
But the jibes from Chris didn’t stop there.
Adding further fire to their beef, in 2018 Chris posted a controversial comment about the actor on social media that made light of his previous marriage.
Will had posted a photo wishing his ex-wife Sheree Zampino a very happy birthday, and Chris posted a remark that went viral.
First jab: In his opening monologue about diversity, Chris, 57, poked fun at Jada, 50, for boycotting the Oscars when Will failed to receive a nomination for Concussion (Pic; 2016)
‘Happy Bday, @shereezampino. #BestBabyMamaEver! 🙂 I Love You, Ree-Ree,’ Will wrote alongside a photo of Sheree and their son Trey.
Chris then commented: ‘Wow. You have a very understanding wife.’
Sheree then responded to Chris, replying: ‘Don’t hate.’
The exchange hit headlines at the time, considering Chris had targeted Jada and Will during the Oscars in 2016.
However, on Sunday night, it seemed Will had finally enough after Chris made a ‘G.I. Jane’ joke about Jada’s shaven head haircut.
Jada has been open about her struggle with hair loss due to alopecia
Will, visibly emotional, walked back to his seat after slapping Chris and shouted: ‘Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth.’
After the incident, Will and Jada reportedly held hands throughout the ceremony.
The couple’s open relationship has seemingly been a trigger for Will, having sparked chaotic conversation at various star-studded events and caused the actor to insist ‘never been infidelity’ in their marriage.
History: Chris previously made fun of Jada when he hosted the Oscars in 2016
Most recently, the couple found themselves the butt of a joke earlier this month after Smith scooped Best Actor for his role in King Richard at the 75th Annual British Academy Film Awards.
BAFTAs host Rebel Wilson, 41, quipped on stage: ‘I thought his best performance over the past year was being OK with all his wife’s boyfriends!’
Speaking afterwards, Smith insisted that there has ‘never been infidelity’, despite Jada admitting in 2020 that she had an ‘entanglement’ with singer August Alsina, 29.
‘There’s never been infidelity in our marriage. Jada and I talk about everything, and we have never surprised one another with anything ever,’ Smith said.
The actor – who has son Jaden, 23, and daughter Willow, 21, with Jada – added that he doesn’t care if people speculate about his marriage and instead he encourages the ‘chatter’ in the hope it will spark meaningful debate.
‘I have decided that chatter about my life can be of a benefit to people,’ he told Gayle King on CBS Sunday Morning after the BAFTAs.
‘Chatter is the first stage to having a real conversation and to be able to truly explore if some of the things in your heart are loving or poisonous.’
OSCARS 2022 WINNERS: AT A GLANCE
Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Will Smith, King Richard
Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog
Best Original Song
No Time to Die from No Time to Die
Best Documentary Feature
Summer of Soul
Best Adapted Screenplay
CODA Sian Heder
Best Original Screenplay
Belfast, Kenneth Branagh
Best Costume Design
Best International Feature Film
Drive My Car
Best Supporting Actor
Troy Kotsur, CODA
Best Animated Feature
Best Visual Effects
Best Supporting Actress
Ariana DeBose, West Side Story
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Best Production Design
Best Original Score
Best Live Action Short
The Long Goodbye
Best Animated Short
The Windshield Wiper
Best Documentary Short Subject
The Queen of Basketball