Will Smith meets the moment with emotional best actor speech after shocking slap
After winning the best actor award, Will Smith apologizes to the academy for his altercation with comedian Chris Rock.
Just moments after slapping presenter Chris Rock hard on live television, Will Smith found himself in tears as he gave his acceptance speech for winning the Oscar for best actor for his performance in “King Richard.”
It was definitely a what’s-he-going-to-do moment, and Smith lived up to expectations. Before his speech was done, he had indirectly explained himself, apologized to the academy and his fellow nominees and told the academy he hoped he’d be invited back.
“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” Smith said, seemingly alluding to the altercation, which sprang from his protection of wife Jada Pinkett Smith. Pinkett Smith suffers from alopecia and has begun shaving her head because of it. Her face had fallen after Rock made a “G.I. Jane” joke at her expense, and her husband leapt to her defense.
Rock had also mocked both actors in his 2016 Oscars opening monologue. The Smiths chose to boycott the show that year in protest of the academy’s lack of diversity, which it has since been working to change.
Smith continued: “In this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God has called on me to do and be in this world.”
Here is a sequence of images by Los Angeles Times photographer Myung J. Chun showing the moment when Smith struck Rock. A transcript of his full acceptance speech follows.
Will Smith’s lead actor acceptance speech:
“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family. 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 was 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. Being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people.
“To do what we do, you got to be able to take abuse. You got to be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you got to be able to have people disrespecting you and you got to smile and you got to pretend like that’s OK. ... Denzel said to me a few minutes ago, he said, ‘At your highest moment be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you.’
“It’s like I want to be a vessel for love. I want to say thank you to Venus and Serena. I just spit — I hope they didn’t see that on TV. I want to say thank you to Venus and Serena and the entire Williams family for entrusting me with your story. That’s what I want to do. 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.
“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 — [producers] Tim [White] and Trevor [White] and [writer] Zach [Baylin] and Saniyya and Demi and Aunjanue and the entire cast and crew of ‘King Richard.’ And Venus and Serena and the entire Williams family.
“Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father ... just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things.
“To my mother, a lot of this moment is really complicated for me but I — she didn’t want to come out. She’s had her knitting friends. She has a knitting crew that she’s [with] in Philly watching with — being able to love and care for my mother, my family, my wife.
“I’m taking up too much time. Thank you for this honor. Thank you for this moment. I thank you on behalf of Richard and for seeing the entire Williams family. Thank you. Hoping the academy invites me back. Thank you.”
Times intern Kai Grady contributed to this report.
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