The startling altercation instantly cemented itself as the most talked-about moment of the 94th Academy Awards.
“Jada, I love ya. GI Jane 2, I can’t wait to see it!” said Rock, referencing the 1997 war drama which saw Demi Moore shave her head to play a woman undergoing Navy Seal training.
The comment took aim at Jada’s appearance, having openly suffered from the hair loss disorder alopecia for several years.
Evidently offended and enraged on her behalf, Smith suddenly stood from his seat and advanced upon the stage, where he promptly struck Rock across the face.
VIA JAPANESE TELEVISION: The uncensored exchange between Will Smith and Chris Rock pic.twitter.com/j0Z184ZyXa
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) March 28, 2022
Visibly shocked but keeping his composure as Smith returned to his seat, Rock declared, “Will Smith just smacked the s***t out of me.”
“Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth!” Smith shouted from across the room as the audience slowly became aware that the altercation might not be part of the script.
Now, in a tweet following the ceremony, the Academy Awards distanced itself from Smith’s actions and denounced violence.
“The Academy does not condone violence of any form,” it wrote. “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.”
The Academy 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.
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) March 28, 2022
Despite the incident, Smith went on to win his first Academy Award for Best Actor in King Richard.