At a sold-out standup show in Boston Wednesday night, Rock — following a thunderous standing ovation — joked to the audience (per our sister pub Variety), “How was your weekend?” He then added, “I don’t have a bunch of s–t about what happened, so if you came to hear that, I have a whole show I wrote before this weekend. I’m still kind of processing what happened. So, at some point I’ll talk about that s–t. And it will be serious and funny.”
While presenting Best Documentary Feature during ABC’s broadcast of the 94th Academy Awards on Sunday, Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s baldness; she has spoken publicly about how she lives with a hair-loss condition called alopecia. “Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2 — can’t wait to see it,” Rock said, referencing the 1997 film in which Demi Moore’s character shaves her head as she competes with her fellow Naval officers in a grueling series of physical tests.
Pinkett Smith’s husband appeared to laugh at the joke at first, but Pinkett Smith rolled her eyes and looked irked. Soon after, Smith walked up to the stage and took a swing at Rock, who said, “Wow, Will Smith just smacked the s–t out of me.” Then Smith, who had returned to his seat, yelled from the audience, “Keep my wife’s name out your f–king mouth” and repeated it after Rock responded that the jab had just been a joke.
Smith went on to take home the Best Actor award, addressing the incident (albeit indirectly) in his acceptance speech. “Denzel [Washington] said to me, ‘At your highest moment, be careful — that’s when the devil comes for you,” he said through tears, before adding, “I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to my fellow nominees.”
On Monday, Smith apologized to Rock via an Instagram post that said, in part, “My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally. I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.”
The film Academy, which is weighing disciplinary action against Smith amid a formal review, revealed on Wednesday that Smith was asked to leave the ceremony following the slap. “Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated,” the statement read in part. “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.”