There was pandemonium both online and at the Dolby Theatre when Will Smith stepped on stage and slapped Chris Rock during the Oscars 2022. No one could quite believe what they saw – even those who organized the event.
The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab) has published a dispatch from behind-the-scenes at the Oscars. Apparently, dress rehearsals of Rock’s speech had gone smoothly, yet the now-infamous joke about Jada Pinket Smith was not part of the script.
On the night, Rock ad-libbed a jab at Pinket Smith, comparing her hair to G.I. Jane, a character who has a shaved head. Jada has previously revealed she had been diagnosed with alopecia, which leads to hair loss, and she was visibly annoyed by the joke. Smith stepped on stage and hit Rock, then returned to his seat and shouted: “Keep my wife’s name out your fucking mouth.”
Backstage, “all hell broke loose”, according to the report. Serena Williams and Venus Williams were there, while some of Hollywood’s biggest stars – Jake Gyllenhaal, Zoë Kravitz, Kevin Costner, Anthony Hopkins, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, and John Travolta – were waiting to give awards. Smith’s own longtime rep, Meredith O’Sullivan Wasson, was also backstage.
There were a few people watching the monitors. Then the Smith incident happened, and everyone paid attention. “It went very quiet,” one insider said. Another added: “Everyone was like, ‘What the fuck is happening?! Did that just happen?! Oh my God!’ People were gasping.”
Whereas most presenters head to the green room – a backstage room for performers – Rock did not return after giving the Best Documentary award to Questlove for Summer of Soul. Unfortunately, Questlove’s speech was overshadowed by the altercation, as audience members and those behind the scenes were completely stunned by what had just happened.
Rock’s manager, Jason Weinberg, was asked to speak to the Los Angeles Police Department, though Rock declined to press charges. Meanwhile, the Oscars producers headed into a private room. A separate report has indicated that they “seriously” considered removing Smith from the ceremony.
Smith, though, was not ejected from the Oscars. On the main Dolby Theater floor, Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry appeared to console and advise Smith, while Bradley Cooper gave him a hug. Smith then went on to win Best Actor at the awards. During his acceptance speech, Smith did not mention Rock, though has since issued a formal statement online apologizing to the comedian.
“I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris,” reads a statement posted to Smith’s social media account. “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.”
“I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us,” Smith continued. “I am a work in progress.”
The Academy responded by posting its own statement. “The Academy does not condone violence of any form,” its official social media account posted. “Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Awards winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.”
For more from the Oscars, check out our Oscars 2022 winners list and our roundup of the five biggest talking points from the night.