Why did Will Smith slap Chris Rock? THAT Oscars 2022 moment explained

a collage showing WIll Smith and Chris Rock

Last year's Oscars ceremony was overshadowed by a controversial incident that saw actor Will Smith slap host Chris Rock. Here's everything to know about the altercation.

It's one of the most watched and celebrated evenings of the year, when Hollywood's finest descend the red carpet and later take to their seats to learn who has impressed the Academy in this year's film offerings. Considered one of the most prestigious awards in the entertainment industry, many A-list actors hope to one day secure a nomination in their screen career. Though it's only a lucky few who walk away with the golden Oscar trophy.

Actor Will Smith was one such lucky nominatee at the Oscars 2022, up for his role in King Richard released late in 2021. But whilst the Fresh Prince of Bel Air star did scoop the award, it was a violent moment with Oscars host Chris Rock became the focus of social media scrutiny. With The Oscars 2023 just around the corner, we take a look back at the controversy and explain why Will Smith slapped Chris Rock. 

Why did Will Smith slap Chris Rock?

Actor Will Smith took to the stage and slapped Chris Rock because of a joke he made about Will's wife Jada Pinkett Smith. It appears that the Men in Black star was not impressed with the comedian's remark that Jada's shaved haircut was reminiscent of famous film character G.I Jane. Jada has been openly suffering with the hair loss condition Alopecia since 2018.

 "Jada, GI Jane 2, I can't wait to see it," said Rock in a skit to the Oscars audience seated in the Dolby Theatre, Los Angeles. 50-year-old Jada seemed visibly annoyed, rolling her eyes at the comment. But it was husband Will Smith who decided to take action. Arising from his seat and storming the stage, Will proceeded to slap Chris Rock around the face in front of a visibly shocked crowd.

A noticeably shocked Chris tried to brush off the encounter. Rubbing his cheek, he said: "Wow, Will Smith just smacked the s**t out of me." Will then returned to his front row seat and shouted "Keep my wife's name out of your f***ing mouth".

Did Will Smith apologise to Chris Rock?

Yes, Will Smith publicly apologised to Chris Rock via Instagram on March 29 - one day on from the altercation. "I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris," he wrote. "I was out of line and I was wrong. I'm 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."

Will described his behaviour as "unacceptable" and "inexcusable". He added that he "reacted emotionally" to the joke about his wife's medical condition.

A photo posted by on

He went on to further apologise to the Academy and his fellow acting nominees. Reiterating the same apology he shared on the night when accepting his award for Best Actor - 15 minutes after the altercation with Chris Rock.

Looking visibly tearful, he shared: "I want to apologise to the Academy, I want to apologise to all my fellow nominees. This is a beautiful moment."

Though he immediately apologised to the Academy and audience, he failed to mention Chris. Or issue an apology to him at the time.

close up of actor Will Smith with his Oscars award

Credit: Getty

The 53-year-old won for the award for his portrayal of Richard Williams, in the film King Richard. It tells the tale of Serena and Venus Williams and the tennis stars' upbringing.

"Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family," Smith continued. "In this time in my life, in this moment I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do." He added that "Love makes you do crazy things," seemingly in reference to his behaviour and offering an explanation as to why he slapped Chris Rock.

Will also mentioned a remark by fellow actor Denzel Washington. This was shared with him during the break between the incident and Will receiving the award. He relayed: "Be careful at your highest moment… that's when the devil comes for you."

What was the Academy's response to Will Smith's behaviour?

In their latest statement, The Academy claimed that they asked Will Smith to leave the ceremony following the slap but the star "refused". They added that their Board of Governors had now started disciplinary proceedings against the actor for what they considered to be "inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behaviour" which compromosed "the integrity of the Academy".

"At the next board meeting on 18 April, the Academy may take any disciplinary action, which may include suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions," the statement clarified.

In a prior statement - released a day after the incident - the Academy first announced their intention to launch a formal review. "The Academy condemns the actions of Mr Smith at last night's show," it read.

This was a development from their initial statement, released on the night that failed to mention Smith and simply stated they do not "condone violence of any form".

The Academy came under criticism for this initial public response. With some arguing it did not do enough to immediately address the on-screen assault.

"You watched and broadcast a live assault to millions of people around the world, then awarded a man who committed said assault immediately afterwards without removing him from the building or having him arrested for the crime," one Twitter user replied. "That's the definition of condoning the violence."

American comedian Rosie O'Connell also directly responded to The Academy's tweet. "Then why did you do NOTHING ?," she wrote.

What has Chris Rock said of the slap?

According to comedian Chris Rock, he's "still processing" the event in question. He also admitted to not being quite ready to talk about it as yet. But when ready, he'll do so both seriously and in his signature comedy style.

"I don’t have a bunch of s*** to say about that, so if you came here for that..," Rock said to the audience at Boston’s Wilbur Theatre, kicking off his Ego Death tour. He reiterated that he "had written a whole show before this weekend".

"I’m still processing what happened, so at some point I’ll talk about that s***," he added. "It’ll be serious. It’ll be funny, but right now I’m going to tell some jokes."

a photo showing Will Smith slap Chris Rock at the Oscars 2022

Credit: Getty

Despite the altercation, it has been shared that Chris Rock has decided to not press charges against Will Smith. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) confirmed as such in a statement after the ceremony:

"LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program," the LAPD told Variety. "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."

A source close to Rock told TMZ that Chris' joke on Jada's hair loss was not intended to cause offence. In fact, they claim that the comedian wasn't aware the actress had alopecia. "He doesn't have a mean bone in his body," they told the publication.

The same source added that Chris was "shaken and bewildered" after the slap, but tried to put it past him and attended Guy Oseary's Oscars After Party after the ceremony.

What has Jada Pinkett Smith said of the slap?

Will Smith's wife Jada Pinkett Smith - the target of Chris' joke - has not directly addressed the controversy and public furore since the incident took place. However, the Girls Trip actress did post a cryptic Instagram post two days later which simply said: "This is a season for healing and I'm here for it".

Jada first shared her Alopecia diagnosis in May 2018 during an open chat on her Facebook series Red Table Talk: "I was in the shower one day and had just handfuls of hair in my hands and I was just like, ‘Oh, my God, am I going bald?’"

A photo posted by on

Two years later, Jada first debuted her current shaved head do with fans in an intimate Instagram video. "Willow made me do it because it was time to let go BUT … my 50’s are bout to be Divinely lit with this shed", read the caption.

Alopecia UK has been one related charity to condemn Chris for his joke at the Oscars which made light of Jada's condition.

"Alopecia UK does not condone violence in any form," their statement began. "Dealing with unwelcome remarks and being the butt of jokes is sadly an all too real part of having alopecia. This just adds to the distress and challenges faced by people with alopecia."

They continued: "In a world where it’s unacceptable to make jokes about someone’s race, sexuality or disability, we believe the same should apply to jokes about visible difference. Such remarks or jokes should be called out as unacceptable or inappropriate."

How long have Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith been married?

Will and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith have been married for 24 years. The two first met in 1994 when Jada auditioned to be Will's on-screen girlfriend on the set of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Will was married to first wife Sheree Zampino at the time, though the two officially divorced in 1995. Jada and Will started dating shortly after this, going on to tie the knot in November 1997.

Despite their legal wedded status, Will revealed that the two no longer say they are married. In fact, Will and Jada don't celebrate their wedding anniversary either. The couple instead prefer to refer to each other as 'life partners'. "Where you realise you are literally with somebody for the rest of your life," Will clarified.

Will Smith and his wife and family

Credit: Getty

The Hollywood couple have two children together - son Jayden and daughter Willow. Whilst Will has another son Trey from his previous marriage to Sheree.

The two have stuck by each other despite cheating allegations and a brief split which the pair both opened up on during an episode of Jada's chat show Red Table Talk.

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Emily Stedman
Features Editor

Emily Stedman is the former Features Editor for GoodTo covering all things TV, entertainment, royal, lifestyle, health and wellbeing. Boasting an encyclopaedic knowledge on all things TV, celebrity and royals, career highlights include working at HELLO! Magazine and as a royal researcher to Diana biographer Andrew Morton on his book Meghan: A Hollywood Princess. In her spare time, Emily can be found eating her way around London, swimming at her local Lido or curled up on the sofa binging the next best Netflix show.