oscars 2022

What Just Happened With Chris Rock and Will Smith at the Oscars?

Photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

So … what just happened? Was that real? Was it fake? What got bleeped? A fracas appeared to take place onstage at the 2022 Oscars when Chris Rock presented the award for Best Documentary. Rock tried to get some razzin’ in before giving out the award, but things took a turn. Speaking to Jada Pinkett Smith, Rock said that he was excited to see her in G.I. Jane 2. “Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see ya,” he said as the cameras cut to Will Smith laughing while Jada Pinkett Smith rolled her eyes at the remark. Pinkett Smith has been pretty transparent about struggling with alopecia, so she did not appreciate this comment. The camera cut away as Will Smith walked onstage and smacked Rock. The entire awards show’s audio was cut, but lip readers, as well as viewers in Japan and Australia, got the uncensored version of what happened next. Rock said, “Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me.” To which Smith replied, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!” Congrats to Summer of Soul, though!

During the commercial break, Denzel Washington was seen speaking to both Smith and Rock. When the telecast resumed, Vanity Fair’s Rebecca Ford tweeted seeing Washington leaning next to Pinkett Smith with his arm around her. Our own Nate Jones reported that “the mood inside the Dolby Theater had curdled” and the audience was distracted and confused going forward. The LAPD said in a statement that Rock declined to press charges. This was not the first time Rock made a joke at Pinkett Smith’s expense. In 2016, he made a crack about her boycotting the Oscars. “Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties,” he said. “I wasn’t invited! Oh, that’s not an invitation I would turn down!”

Within the same hour, Smith won the Oscar for Best Actor. Through tears, he discussed how he got to protect his co-stars in the role of Richard Williams. “I’m being called on in my life to love people, and to protect people, and to be a river to my people,” he said. Smith said Washington counseled him right before getting the award. He used his acceptance-speech time to apologize to the Academy and his fellow nominees, as well as thanking the King Richard crew. “Thank you for this honor; thank you for this moment,” he said. “I hope the Academy invites me back.”

That evening, the Academy said it “does not condone violence of any form” and reminded everyone watching that, in the end, we’re all just movie lovers.

At the Vanity Fair after-party, DJ D-Nice spun three different Will Smith tracks, rubbing musical salt into the vibe wound. Dancing and singing along to “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” “Miami,” and “Summertime” with an Oscar in hand, Smith looked — we’ll say it — downright slaphappy.

Variety reports that at the party such celebrities as Trevor Noah, Ricky Martin, Cynthia Erivo, and Tony Goldwyn paid their respects to Smith on his Oscar win. When asked how he was doing, Smith said, “It’s all about love.”

On March 28, the Academy sent out a statement to press saying it is investigating the incident. “The Academy 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.” SAG-AFTRA also condemned Smith’s behavior and said in a statement that it would “work to ensure this behavior is appropriately addressed,” though the union would not comment on any pending member disciplinary process.

The Academy sent out another statement on March 30, adding additional details of what happened Oscar night — including that Smith was asked to leave the ceremony but refused. “Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated. While we would like to clarify that Mr. Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognize we could have handled the situation differently,” the statement read. The Academy also announced that it had begun “disciplinary proceedings against” Smith, a process they previously said could take weeks. On April 1, Smith announced that he had resigned as an Academy member and would accept any consequences that the Board deemed appropriate.

This post has been updated with additional information throughout.

What Just Happened With Chris Rock and Will Smith?