The slap heard around the world: Will Smith really did hit Chris Rock at the Oscars

A man slapping another man on a stage
Will Smith slaps Chris Rock onstage during the 2022 Academy Awards in Los Angeles.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

In a shocking event that stunned a worldwide audience, Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Academy Awards Sunday after the comedian made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith.

While Rock was presenting the Oscar for documentary feature, Smith rushed the stage and struck Rock on live television after the comic made a quip about the “King Richard” star’s wife and the film “G.I. Jane.” Rock apparently likened Pinkett Smith’s bald hairstyle to the look Demi Moore’s character sported in the 1997 movie.

Actor Pinkett Smith — who has been vocal about her struggles with hair loss due to a condition called alopecia — did not laugh at Rock’s remark.


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“Will Smith just smacked the s— out of me,” a shell-shocked Rock said from the stage after Smith attacked him.

“Keep my wife’s name out your f— mouth!” Smith shouted at Rock after returning to the audience. That remark was censored during the broadcast in the U.S.

“Wow, dude,” Rock said. “It was a ‘G.I. Jane’ joke.”

“Keep my wife’s name out your f— mouth,” Smith repeated.

“I’m going to, OK?” Rock said.

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An LAPD spokesman said Sunday night that the department is not investigating the incident and that Rock would have to file a battery complaint to open an investigation.

According to a tweet from Variety Executive Editor Ramin Setoodeh, what unfolded between Rock and Smith was not planned and did not happen in rehearsals the day prior. Setoodeh also reported that Smith’s publicist spoke with him during commercial breaks — as did Oscars producer Will Packer.

Others who approached Smith throughout the remainder of the night included “Being the Ricardos” star Nicole Kidman and “The Tragedy of Macbeth” star Denzel Washington.

Rock was later overheard saying backstage, “I just got punched in the face by Muhammad Ali and didn’t get a scratch.” (Smith played Ali in a 2001 biopic about the boxing champion.)


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Shortly after hitting Rock, Smith won the lead actor prize for his performance in “King Richard.” In the sports drama, Smith played the titular father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams.

Through tears, Smith apologized to the academy and his fellow nominees — but not to Rock — while accepting his award.

“I want to be a vessel for love,” said Smith, who received a standing ovation upon winning the Oscar. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the academy.

“I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees. … Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said … about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things. … Thank you. I hope the academy invites me back.”

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Before taking the stage to receive his Oscar, Smith embraced Pinkett Smith. He also mentioned during his speech that fellow lead actor nominee Washington told him “a few minutes ago ... ‘At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you.’”

According to NBC News, Pinkett Smith revealed in 2018 that she had been diagnosed with alopecia. In December, the “Red Table Talk” star opened up about her hair loss in an Instagram video showing a new patch of baldness she had just discovered on her head.


“Look at this line right here,” Pinkett Smith said in the clip. “This is going to be a little bit more difficult for me to hide, so I thought I’d just share it so y’all not asking any questions. But Mama’s going to put some rhinestones in there, and I’m going to make me a little crown.”

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Sunday was not the first time Rock took a dig at Pinkett Smith during an Oscars ceremony. While hosting the Academy Awards in 2016, the “Fargo” actor made fun of the “Girls Trip” star for boycotting the event amid the #OscarsSoWhite movement.

“Jada got mad, she said she’s not coming,” Rock said at the time. “Doesn’t she have a TV show? Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties — I wasn’t invited!”

“You get mad that Will was this good and didn’t get nominated [for his role in ‘Concussion’],” Rock continued. “It’s also not fair that Will was paid $20 million to do ‘Wild Wild West.’”

Tweeting after Sunday’s Oscars wrapped up, producer Packer wrote: “Welp…I said it wouldn’t be boring #Oscars.”

Times staffers Colleen Shalby, Robert Gauthier and Kai Grady contributed to this report.