In an apparently unscripted moment that stunned viewers and audience members alike, Will Smith strode onstage and hit Chris Rock in the face after the comedian made a joke about the actor’s wife while presenting the best documentary award at the Oscars.
Rock joked that Smith’s wife, the actress Jada Pinkett Smith, was in “G.I. Jane 2,” seemingly a reference to her short-cropped hair. Pinkett Smith has said she has alopecia, a condition that leads to hair loss.
Smith yelled and cursed at Rock after returning to his seat, demanding that Rock not speak about his wife.
During the heated exchange, the telecast went silent on many screens, leaving confusion about what had happened and what had been said.
The camera panned to Smith, who appeared initially to be smiling. But the joke drew a lukewarm reception, prompting Rock to add: “That was a nice one!”
Jada Pinkett Smith immediately rolled her eyes at the joke. Pinkett Smith has been open about her alopecia, posting a video on Instagram last year to explain how the hair loss had progressed. She first shared the diagnosis in 2018 on an episode of her talk show, when she said she had decided to cut her hair short after handfuls of it came out in the shower.
On Sunday, after Rock spoke, her husband was soon out of his seat. Smith walked down the runway toward the stage.
“Uh-oh,” Rock said. Smith approached, and hit Rock; the impact could be heard through his microphone.
Uncensored broadcasts of the telecast outside the United States showed that after being struck, Rock, trying to keep the mood light, acknowledged that Smith had “smacked” him, using an expletive to describe how hard he had been hit.
Back in his seat, Smith told Rock: “Keep my wife’s name out your fucking mouth!”
Rock responded, “Wow dude, it was a ‘G.I. Jane’ joke.”
Smith then repeated his demand.
Looking shocked, Rock said, “That was the greatest night in the history of television,” then moved on to awarding the Oscar for documentary feature to “Summer of Soul.”
Soon after, Smith won the Oscar for best actor, and he gave an emotional speech in which he said: “I want to apologize to the academy. I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees.”
At the end of his speech, Will Smith added: “Thank you. I hope the Academy invites me back.”
The Academy later issued a statement on Twitter that mentioned neither Smith nor Rock, but said “The Academy does not condone violence of any form.”
In a statement after the evening’s telecast had concluded, the Los Angeles Police Department said it was aware of what it said was an incident involving “one individual slapping another” at the Oscars. The police said the person involved had “declined to file a police report.”
“If the involved party desires a police report at a later date,” the police said, they would move forward and “complete an investigative report.”