Will Smith has issued an apology to Chris Rock, the Academy and viewers after slapping the comedian on stage at the 94th Academy Awards, saying he was “out of line” and that his actions were “not indicative of the man I want to be”.
The fallout from Sunday’s show continued on Monday as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences condemned Smith’s onstage assault and said it would launch an inquiry. Smith apologized to the Academy during his best actor acceptance speech, which notably didn’t include an apology to Rock.
On Monday, he issued a stronger apology and account of his actions, writing on Instagram that he “reacted emotionally” to Rock’s joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who has been open about her alopecia-related hair loss.
“Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive,” said Smith. “My behaviour 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.”
Smith added apologies to the film academy, producers of the telecast, attendees, viewers and the Williams family. Smith was honored for his role as Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena.
“I deeply regret that my behaviour has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us. I am a work in progress,” added Smith.
On Tuesday, Jada Pinkett Smith posted a short follow-up message on social media, reading: “This is a season of healing and I’m here for it.”
Rock has yet to comment on the matter publicly, apart from in the moment when he said on stage, “Wow, wow … Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me.”
Hollywood and the public have continued to wrestle with a moment that stunned the Dolby Theatre crowd and viewers at home. Smith initially laughed, then took to the stage when the comedian joked: “Jada, I love you. GI Jane 2, can’t wait to see it.”
Smith strode on stage and slapped Rock across the face. After returning to his seat, Smith twice shouted for Rock to “get my wife’s name out your fucking mouth”. His words echoed clearly throughout the Dolby, though the US broadcaster, ABC, cut the audio for about 15 seconds.
Several stars rushed to counsel and calm Smith, including Denzel Washington, Bradley Cooper and Tyler Perry. But the timing was also awkward because the best actor category was due up soon after, and Smith had long been considered the favourite for the award. Within an hour, he had won the award.
In his tearful acceptance speech, Smith did not apologize to Rock at the time, saying, “Love will make you do crazy things.”
“I know we’re all still processing, but the way casual violence was normalised tonight by a collective national audience will have consequences that we can’t even fathom in the moment,” wrote Janai Nelson, the president and director counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, on Twitter.
A full meeting of the Academy’s board of governors has been called for Wednesday evening to discuss the incident, according to the Hollywood Reporter. In addition to a review, the film academy said that it “will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our bylaws, standards of conduct and California law”.
The Los Angeles police department said on Sunday that it was aware of the incident but was not pursuing an investigation because Rock had declined to file a police report.
The drama overshadowed some historical wins at an Oscars. The deaf family drama Coda became the first film with a largely deaf cast to win best picture. For the first time, a streaming service, Apple TV+, took Hollywood’s top honor, signalling a profound shift in Hollywood and in moviegoing.
Ariana DeBose became the first LGBTQ woman to win best supporting actor for her role in West Side Story. Coda actor Troy Kotsur was the first deaf male actor to win an Oscar. And Jane Campion became the third ever female film-maker to win best director for The Power of the Dog.
Associated Press contributed to this report.