“Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see it,” Rock joked about Pinkett’s shaved head, which is a result of the autoimmune disorder alopecia. Smith seemed to laugh along, but Jada was clearly offended and rolled her eyes at the joke.
As Rock moved on to present the award for Best Documentary Feature, the “I Am Legend” star stormed the stage while Rock laughed uncomfortably. Smith wound up and smacked the comedian hard across the face, stunning the audience.
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“Wow, oh wow,” Rock exclaimed as he staggered, but remained standing. “Will Smith just smacked the s**t out of me.”
The actor returned to his seat, but yelled off camera. “Keep my wife’s name out your f***king mouth,” he shouted.
“Wow, dude. It was a G.I. Jane joke,” Rock replied in shock.
“Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth,” a stony Smith repeated again.
“I’m going to, okay?” Rock recovered. “That was, uh, the greatest night in the history of television.” He then went on to present the award like a consummate professional.
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Smith was comforted by Denzel Washington and Bradley Cooper during the commercial break, and eventually took the stage to accept the Best Actor Award for “King Richard.”
“I want to apologize to The Academy; I want to apologize to all of my fellow nominees,” he said with tears in his eyes. “I hope the Academy invites me back.”
Smith justified his actions by citing his character, Richard Williams, for being a “fierce defender of his family,” and noted that in the moment he was “overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world.”
“I know to do what we do, you’ve got to be able to take abuse, you’ve got to be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you’ve got to be able to have people disrespecting you, and you’ve got to smile and pretend like that’s okay,” he continued during his acceptance speech.
“Denzel said to me a few moments ago, he said to me, ‘At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you.’ [But] I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith concluded.
Rock reportedly declined to press assault charges, but has up to six months to file a police report, which can result in Smith facing up to six months in jail, and a fine of up to $100,000.