Oscar-winner Will Smith smacked presenter Chris Rock in the face with an open hand and shouted a vulgarity at the comedian for making a joke about his wife’s appearance at the Oscars ceremony on Sunday.
Minutes later, when accepting the Oscar for best actor for his role in “King Richard,” Smith apologized to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and his fellow nominees but not to Rock.
A day later Smith apologized to Rock and to the Academy, Will Packer and other nominees for spoiling the historic moment.
Rock was roasting some of the nominees and, after mentioning Smith, said of his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, “Jada, I love you. G.I. Jane II, can’t wait to see it.”
Moments later, Smith walked on stage toward Rock, who had his hands behind his back when Smith threw an open hand at his face that produced an audible smack.
“Oh, wow! Wow! Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me,” Rock said as the audience laughed, thinking it was a skit. “Wow, dude. It was a G.I. Jane joke,” referencing the 1997 film “G.I. Jane” in which actress Demi Moore shaved her head.
Smith then made what may become one of the most repeated phrases of Oscar history when he said, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”
The Academy said Wednesday they asked Smith to leave the event after the incident but he refused.
However, TMZ reports that after Smith slapped comedian Rock, three sources who said they witnessed conversations between the Academy and Smith’s representatives got heated and during a commercial break about half an hour after the incident, producer Will Packer walked up to Smith and told him, “We do not want you to leave.”
The Academy also apologized to Rock, who has benefitted from the situation as tickets for his comedy tour have skyrocketed. Additionally, several celebrities and comedians including Oscar hosts Wanda Sykes and Amy Schumer have come to his defense.
“Mr. Smith’s actions at the 94th Oscars were a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness in-person and on television. Mr. Rock, we apologize to you for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience in that moment,” the Academy added. “We also apologize to our nominees, guests and viewers for what transpired during what should have been a celebratory event.”
The Academy still may level some form of punishment against Smith at their next Board of Governors meeting April 18.
Reuters contributed to this report.