Wave Wire Services
HOLLYWOOD — Actor Will Smith issued a public apology March 28 for smacking Chris Rock on stage during the Oscar telecast the night before, while the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced it will conduct a formal review of the incident and consider possible “consequences” for the best-actor winner.
On his Instagram page, Smith posted a statement saying “Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive.”
“My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable.” Smith continued. “Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.
“I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. 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,” Smith added.
“I would also like to apologize to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world. I would like to apologize to the Williams family and my ‘King Richard’ family. I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us.
“I am a work in progress,” he concluded.
His statement came hours after the Academy formally condemned Smith’s actions and announced a review to determine if “consequences” are warranted.
“The Academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night’s show,” according to an Academy statement. “We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our bylaws, standards of conduct and California law.”
The Academy offered no further details on what potential consequences Smith could face — such as having his Academy membership suspended or revoked.
Smith is unlikely to have his best-actor Oscar win for “King Richard” rescinded. The Academy has previously expelled members, including Bill Cosby, Roman Polanski and Harvey Weinstein, but none were forced to surrender any previous Oscar wins.
No timeline for the Academy’s review process was provided.
The SAG-AFTRA union, which represents actors and performers in Hollywood and beyond, also issued a statement condemning Smith’s actions.
“Violence or physical abuse in the workplace is never appropriate and the union condemns any such conduct,” the statement from SAG-AFTRA said. “The incident involving Will Smith and Chris Rock at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable. We have been in contact with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and ABC about this incident, and will work to ensure this behavior is appropriately addressed. SAG-AFTRA does not comment on any pending member disciplinary process.”
Rock was on the Dolby Theatre stage to present the Oscar for best documentary feature, but he peppered in some jokes — including one referencing actress Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head, suggesting she would be starring in a sequel to “G.I. Jane.”
Pinkett Smith has talked in the past about having the hair-loss condition alopecia. Her husband, who initially appeared to be laughing at Rock’s quip, didn’t take the joke well.
Smith, who was seated in the front of the theater, walked onto the stage and smacked Rock across the face, in a move that initially drew some nervous laughs from the crowd, believing it was a pre-planned comedy skit. But Smith turned and stalked back to his seat, then sternly screamed at Rock twice, telling him to “keep my wife’s name out of your [expletive] mouth.”
The audience then fell into a stunned silence.
Rock remained calm and went on to present the documentary award.
Later in the show, Smith returned to the Oscar stage when he won the prize for best actor for his performance in “King Richard,” portraying the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams.
“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” Smith said to begin his acceptance speech, drawing nervous laughter from the audience.
Fighting back tears, he later added, “I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to my fellow nominees.” He also appeared to express sorrow for his actions overshadowing the success of the film.
“I want to be a vessel for love,” he said. “I want to say thank you to Venus and Serena … and the entire Williams family for trusting me with your story. That’s what I wanted to do, I wanted to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern.”
He also said later, “I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams. … Love will make you do crazy things.”
Smith never mentioned Rock in his acceptance speech, which he ended by saying, “Hopefully the Academy invites me back.”
The Dolby Theatre crowd gave him a standing ovation in response.
Smith said on stage that fellow best-actor nominee Denzel Washington had given him some appropriate words after the slapping incident: “Denzel said to me at your highest moment be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”
Smith did not speak to reporters in the backstage press room after his Oscar win.
The Los Angeles Police Department issued a statement saying that Rock had declined to pursue any charges against Smith.
“LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the department’s statement said. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”
Sean “Diddy” Combs briefly addressed the situation when he took the stage immediately after the slapping incident to introduce a 50th anniversary celebration of “The Godfather.”
“Will and Chris, we’re going to solve that like family,” he said.
At the Vanity Fair post-Oscars party, Combs told Page Six that the Smith-Rock feud was “over.”
“That’s not a problem. That’s over,” Combs said. “I can confirm that. It’s all love. They’re brothers.”
Smith also attended the Vanity Fair party and was caught on camera smiling and dancing with fellow party-goers — many of whom whipped out their cell phones to capture the festive moment.
At some point, Smith added a comment to one of his earlier Instagram posts, reading “You can’t invite people from Philly or Baltimore nowhere!!”
Rock has not commented on the incident.
At least one Academy member, director/producer Marshall Herskovitz, whose producing credits include “The Last Samurai” and “Blood Diamond,” called for firm action by the Academy, tweeting, “I call upon the Academy, of which I am a member, to take disciplinary action against Will Smith. He disgraced our entire community tonight.”
Academy Board of Governors member Whoopi Goldberg addressed the incident the following morning on “The View,” saying, “There will be consequences, I’m sure.” But she said Smith would not forfeit his Oscar.
Reaction in the entertainment community varied widely.
Actor/director Rob Reiner wrote on Twitter that Smith owes Rock a “huge apology.”
“There is no excuse for what he did,” Reiner wrote. “He’s lucky Chris is not filing assault charges.”
Actress Rosie O’Donnell called Smith’s actions “a sad display of toxic masculinity from a narcissistic madman.”
Some critics questioned why Smith was permitted to remain in the theater after the incident, and others blasted the celebrities in attendance for later giving him a standing ovation as he accepted his Oscar. Others also questioned the impact the seeming acceptance of Smith’s actions will have on comedians — who have historically had to learn how to handle hecklers.
“Let me tell you something, it’s a very bad practice to walk up on stage and physically assault a comedian,” comedian Kathy Griffin wrote. “Now we all have to worry about who wants to be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theaters.”
Will Packer, one of the producers of the Oscar telecast, tweeted simply, “Welp … I said it wouldn’t be boring #Oscars.”
But Smith had his supporters. Comedian Tiffany Haddish told People magazine she was proud to see Smith stand up for his wife.
“That meant so much to me,” she said. “As a woman who has been unprotected, for someone to say like, ‘Keep my wife’s name out your mouth, leave my wife alone,’ that’s what your husband is supposed to do, right? Protect you. And that meant the world to me.”