Will Smith, right, hits presenter Chris Rock on stage while presenting the award for best documentary feature at the Oscars on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre. —
A 94th Academy Awards that steadily maintained a buoyant spirit was rocked by an unbelievable exchange after Will Smith took offence to a joke made by Chris Rock about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
After Rock joked to Smith that he was looking forward to a sequel to “G.I. Jane,” Smith stood up from his seat near the stage, strode up to Rock and slapped him. After sitting back down, Smith shouted at Rock to “keep my wife’s name out of your (expletive) mouth.» When Rock, who joked about Jada Pinkett Smith while hosting the Oscars in 2016, protested that it was just a “GI Jane” joke, Smith repeated the same line.
“That was the greatest night in the history of television,” Rock said, before awkwardly returning to presenting Best documentary, which went to Questlove’s “Summer of Soul (…or When the Revolution Was Not Televised).»
Later in the ceremony, a tearful Smith won the best actor Oscar, his first.
“I know to do what we do, you got to be able to take abuse. You got to be able to have people talk crazy about you in this business. You got to be able to have people disrespecting you and you got to smile and you got to pretend like that’s OK,» Smith said.
A few minutes later, 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 moment shocked the Dolby Theatre audience and viewers at home. At the commercial break, presenter Daniel Kaluuya came up to hug Smith, and Denzel Washington escorted him to the side of the stage. The two talked and hugged and Tyler Perry came over to talk as well.
“I’m hoping the Academy invites me back,» Will Smith said, as he concluded his on-stage remarks.
Up until that moment, the show had been running fairly smoothly. Ariana DeBose became the first Afro-Latina to win an Academy Award for supporting actress, while Troy Kotsur became the first deaf actor to win an acting award.