Following the memorable Will Smith and Chris Rock altercation from the prior year, tonight’s (March 12) Oscars will differ slightly from previous occasions.
The famous slap
On March 27, 2022, during the 94th Academy Awards, actor Will Smith entered the stage and smacked comedian Chris Rock in the face as Rock accepted the award for Best Documentary Feature.
Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, which she had been doing since 2021 due to alopecia areata. In reaction, Smith slapped Rock.
Rock answered briefly when Smith returned to his seat and yelled obscenities at him, then continued with his lecture without more interruption.
Later on in the evening, Smith was named Best Actor. In his victory speech, he expressed regret to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the other candidates, but not to Rock. He apologized to Rock and the Academy the next day via social media.
Smith’s sudden entrance during Rock’s Best Documentary Feature presentation shook up the 94th Academy Awards.
The actor entered the stage to attack the comic shortly after the latter made a joke about Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith that seemed to allude to her alopecia.
Will Smith screamed at Rock to “keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth” as he returned to his seat, and Rock said, “Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me!”
Shortly after the tragic scene from last year, Smith’s performance in the biopic King Richard earned him the Best Actor trophy. The actor broke down in tears during his acceptance speech, which marked his first-ever Oscar victory.
The Academy was concerned about Smith’s behavior notwithstanding his victory. The 95th Academy Awards will break with a long-standing tradition because of the slap, which resulted in Smith being barred from the Oscars for ten years.
The Academy would typically ask the Best Actor winner back to introduce the new Best Actress finalists, but due to Smith’s suspension, tonight’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! event will have to go on without him.
David Rubin, the president of the Academy, and Dawn Hudson, the CEO, announced in a statement at the time that Smith would not be welcomed back for at least ten years.
The statement continues, “The Board has determined that Mr. Smith shall not be permitted to attend any Academy events or programs, in person or online, including but not limited to the Academy Awards, for a period of 10 years beginning April 8, 2022.
It’s unclear who will give this year’s Best Actress her award; among the contenders for the prized accolade were Michelle Yeoh, Michelle Williams, Cate Blanchett, Andrea Riseborough, and Ana de Armas.
When Riseborough was named a contender back in January, there was debate about her performance as an alcoholic single mother in the independent movie To Leslie.
The decision stunned experts and spurred the Academy to look into campaigning tactics, which finally allowed the English actress to keep her nomination.
Nevertheless, other commentators noted that the same grassroots initiative that helped raise awareness of Riseborough would have benefited other performances, particularly those from Black actors like Viola Davis and Danielle Deadwyler.