Will Smith hits at Chris Rock as Rock spoke on stage during the 94th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 27, 2022. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
March 28, 2022
(Note language in second and sixth paragraphs some readers may find offensive)
By Frank McGurty and Daniel Trotta
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Best actor nominee Will Smith smacked presenter Chris Rock in the face with an open hand and shouted a vulgarity at the comedian for making a joke about his wife’s appearance at the Oscars ceremony on Sunday.
The episode at first appeared to be a scripted joke but turned serious when Smith shouted out, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”
The audio from the show, broadcast on a time-delay of a few seconds in the United States, appeared to have been cut from the live transmission for many viewers because of the language.
Rock was roasting some of the nominees and, after mentioning Smith, said of his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, “Jada, I love you. G.I. Jane II, can’t wait to see it.”
Moments later, Smith walked on stage toward Rock, who had his hands behind his back when Smith threw an open hand at his face that produced an audible smack.
“Oh, wow! Wow! Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me,” Rock said as the audience laughed, thinking it was a skit. “Wow, dude. It was a G.I. Jane joke,” referencing the 1997 film “G.I. Jane” in which actress Demi Moore shaved her head.
Smith then made what may become one of the most repeated phrases of Oscar history when he said, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”
Rock responded, “I’m going to. That’s the greatest night in the history of television.”
Smith then repeated his phrase, louder and more deliberately.
The audience initially thought Smith’s indignation was feigned, part of the act. It was only after he returned to his seat and shouted that the audience went silent and audibly gasped. Many people in the mezzanine stood up and craned their heads to try to catch a glimpse.
Smith was nominated for best actor for “King Richard.” The award had yet to be presented, setting up the possibility Smith would return to the stage if he were to win.
(Reporting by Frank McGurty in Los Angeles and Daniel Trotta in Carlsbad, Calif.; Editing by Howard Goller)