Will Smith has won Best Actor for King Richard, following a shock outburst in which he “smacked the s*** out of” Chris Rock onstage over a comment made about Smith’s wife.
In what became the most anticipated acceptance speech of the show, he tells the audience the character of Richard was a fierce defender of his family. He says he is being called on in his life to protect people and that he “wants to be a vessel for love.”
“I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people … you’ve got to be able to take abuse. You have to be able to have people talk crazy about you. You have to be able to have people disrespect you.
“You have to smile and pretend like that’s okay.”
Moments earlier, the Oscars audience was left reeling when Smith leapt on stage to take a swing at presenter Chris Rock and yell at him after a joke was made about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
The exchange began when Rock took aim at Pinkett Smith’s shaved head. He poked fun at other husband-and-wife stars before turning to Pinkett Smith to say, “Jada, I love you. GI Jane 2, I can’t wait to see it.”
The lead character in GI Jane has a shaved head.
Pinkett Smith, who is bald, revealed in 2018 she was diagnosed with alopecia. She can be seen rolling her eyes and looking at her husband following Rock’s comments.
While Rock grinned and told the audience, “that was a nice one”, all of a sudden Smith is out of his seat and storming towards Rock before taking a swing at the comedian.
A shocked Rock responded: “Wow. Will Smith just smacked the s*** out of me.”
“That was the greatest night in the history of television,” Rock then said, before resuming his role as presenter.
Smith then returned to his seat where he yelled: “Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth.”
He repeated: “Yes. Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth.”
It’s believed the outburst was also sparked by a joke Rock made at the 2016 Oscars where he quipped:
“Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited! Oh, that’s not an invitation I would turn down!”
A few minutes after the incident, rapper Sean Combs – on stage to introduce a tribute to “The Godfather” – tried to play peacemaker and suggested Smith and Rock settle their differences at an Oscars afterparty.
“Will and Chris, we’re going to solve that like family at the Gold party,” Combs said.
The reverberations did not stop there. Several people approached Smith and Pinkett Smith in the commercial breaks that followed; Keith Urban hugged Smith during one stoppage in the show, Nicole Kidman also went over to say a few words as well.
During an ad break, fellow actor Denzel Washington pulled Smith aside to speak to him and was then seen kneeling by Pinkett Smith with his arm around her.
As Smith accepted his award moments later, he revealed Washington had just told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the Devil comes for you.”
Smith apologised to the Academy and his fellow nominees before becoming emotional:
“I’m not crying for winning an award. It’s about being able to shine a light on the people … the entire Williams family. I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams.”
He laughs before continuing: “This moment is really complicated for me.
“Thank you for this honour. Thank you for this moment, and thank you on behalf of the entire Williams family.
“Thank you and I hope Academy invites me back.”
The internet was quick to respond to the Fresh Prince star’s attack, erupting with questions about whether the incident was scripted or an unexpected outburst by Smith.
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