- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
Will Smith took the stage for a second time at the 2022 Oscars, but this appearance was under calmer circumstances, after winning best actor for King Richard.
The star nabbed his first Academy Award for his role as Richard Williams, father to tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams, in director Reinaldo Marcus Green’s biopic. Smith was previously nominated for best actor twice, for 2001’s Ali and 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness.
Smith shocked Oscars viewers earlier Sunday evening when, in a stunning moment of live television, he slapped presenter Chris Rock onstage after the comedian joked about the actor’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, sporting a shaved head.
As his name was called as the winner, Smith took a beat from his chair to lean his forehead against Jada’s, and they shared a kiss.
“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” Smith said from the stage through tears. “In this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world. Making this film, I got to protect Aunjanue Ellis, who is one of the strongest, most delicate people I’ve ever met. I got to protect Saniyya [Sidney] and Demi [Singleton], the two actresses that played Venus and Serena. I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people.”
Smith continued, “To do what we do, you got to be able to take abuse. You gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you gotta be able to have people disrespecting you, and you gotta smile, and you gotta pretend like that’s OK.”
He said that, after the Rock onstage moment, Denzel Washington told him off-camera, “At your highest moment, be careful — that’s when the devil comes for you.”
Smith then told the crowd, “I want to be a vessel for love.” At that moment, ABC aired an Oscars logo in place of the live feed of Smith’s speech. “I just spit — I hope they didn’t see that on TV,” he quipped as the camera cut to the real-life Williams family before returning to Smith.
“I want to apologize to the Academy; I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees,” Smith shared. “This is a beautiful moment, and I’m not crying for winning an award. It’s not about winning an award for me. It’s about being able to shine light on all of the people.”
Smith, who did not mention Rock directly, continued, “Art imitates life — I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams.” The camera then showed Serena Williams laughing. “But love will make you do crazy things,” he continued.
“I hope the Academy invites me back,” Smith added with a laugh as he ended his speech.
After his win, Smith skipped the press room (where media outlets were instructed to ask winners only about their specific win and work.)
Following the ceremony, the Academy addressed the altercation in a statement shared to social media. “The Academy does not condone violence of any form,” the message read. It added that the winners “deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.”
Roger Ross Williams, a Black member of the Academy’s board of governors, told The Hollywood Reporter after the show that the incident upset him.
“I was in tears,” he said. “It reinforces stereotypes about Black people and it just hurts me. … Work it out someplace else, not on a stage.”
Will Packer, who produced this year’s ceremony, also commented on the furor by tweeting after the show, “Welp…I said it wouldn’t be boring #Oscars.”
The LAPD confirmed that Rock opted not to file a police report about the incident, saying in a statement, “If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”
Earlier, while presenting the Oscar for best documentary, Rock said, “Jada, I love you. G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see it.” Jada, who has worn short hair at various times throughout her career, opened up in 2018 about her battle with alopecia. In December 2021, she posted a video to Instagram showing a new patch of hair loss and said she would have to take her hair “down to the scalp so nobody thinks [I] got brain surgery or something.”
This is not the first Oscars ceremony during which Rock has mentioned Pinkett Smith, his co-star in the Madagascar film franchise. While hosting in 2016, Rock referenced Pinkett Smith having said that she would not attend the Oscars ceremony that year or even watch from home due to the lack of diverse representation among the nominees. “Jada says she’s not coming. Protesting. I’m like, ‘Ain’t she on a TV show?'” Rock said in his 2016 monologue. “Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited! … But I understand! I’m not hating. I understand you’re mad. Jada’s mad her man, Will, was not nominated for Concussion. I get it.”
When asked shortly after the 2016 ceremony about Rock’s comments, Pinkett Smith said, “It comes with the territory. We gotta keep it moving.”
Will Smith was considered the frontrunner in the best actor category, having won numerous key bellwether prizes for the role, including the SAG, Critics Choice, BAFTA and Golden Globe awards.
Also nominated for the best actor Oscar were Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog), Andrew Garfield (Tick, Tick … Boom!) and Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth).
King Richard, nominated for six Oscars including best picture, tells the fact-based story of the titular patriarch (Smith) helping daughters Venus (Sidney) and Serena (Singleton) to succeed in a sport largely dominated by white athletes. Ellis was nominated for best supporting actress for her role as Richard’s then-wife and the girls’ mother, Oracene “Brandy” Price.
The 94th annual Academy Awards show took place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood and was hosted by Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day
More from The Hollywood Reporter
‘Kill Boksoon’ Filmmaker Talks Netflix Action Thriller With Shades of Female ‘John Wick’
Megan Thee Stallion
Megan Thee Stallion in Talks for Adam Sandler Netflix Movie From ‘Uncut Gems’ Directors
Tom Felton Remembers Late Robbie Coltrane on Birthday: “Without Hagrid, There’s No Hogwarts”