Entertainment

Will Smith Wins His First Oscar and Addresses His Chris Rock Slap


In a truly stranger-than-fiction moment, Will Smith followed his viral slap of Chris Rock with a Best Actor win at the 2022 Academy Awards. An emotional Smith took the stage for a tear-filled acceptance speech that clearly seemed informed by his outburst. Smith won his first Oscar for playing Richard Williams, the intensely driven father of Venus and Serena Williams, in King Richard.

“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” Smith said as he took the stage, mentioning his co-stars, Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, and Demi Singleton and how, through his role as Richard, he was meant to “protect” them. It’s hard to look at that particular word choice and not see it as being connected to Smith’s decision to stand up for his wife earlier in the broadcast, which was later addressed by everyone from Diddy and co-host Amy Schumer to Anthony Hopkins.

Smith went on to apologize to the Academy and his fellow nominees for his actions. “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do, you gotta be able to take abuse, you gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you,” Smith said. “In this business, you gotta be able to have people disrespecting you. And you gotta smile and pretend like that’s okay.”

Still, Smith’s win will almost certainly be his second most famous moment from the night. Earlier in the show, the movie star walked on stage and struck Rock after the comedian made a snide joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith’s, shaved head. Pinkett Smith has spoken publicly about shaving her head after being diagnosed with alopecia. “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” Smith said twice.

The odds-on favorite to win Best Actor, per Gold Derby, the race was considered fairly close between Smith, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Andrew Garfield. Smith also referenced his fellow nominee Denzel Washington, saying, “Denzel said to me a few minutes ago, ‘At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you.’” That was an allusion to Washington and Tyler Perry taking Smith aside and speaking to him in the tense aftermath of the slap.

“Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things,” Smith added.

Smith had previously been nominated for Best Actor for The Pursuit of Happyness in 2007 and Ali in 2002.





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