Inside the Aftermath of Will Smith Slapping Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars

Remembering that jaw-dropping 2022 Oscars moment, where for a minute no one—including Chris Rock, and maybe not even Will Smith—knew what was happening.

By Natalie Finn Mar 10, 2023 12:00 PMTags
Watch: Academy Adds Oscars "Crisis Team" After Will Smith Slap

Just when you thought it was safe to think about the upcoming 2023 Oscars and not think about Will Smith slapping Chris Rock last year...


Aside from, maybe, this year's nominees, no one isn't thinking about it. Host Jimmy Kimmel has been asked what he'll do if something comparable happens at the March 12 ceremony, and he told The Hollywood Reporter it would be "ridiculous not to mention it."

Because as Rock himself just reminded in his live March 4 Netflix standup special Chris Rock: Selective Outrage, that s--t still stings.

But even though Rock devoting the last 10 minutes of his show to the Smith drama (which also inspired the title) might indicate some hard feelings, it was the Oscars that needed every second of this past year to heal.

The 2022 Oscars were more than halfway over when Rock took the stage to present the winner of Best Documentary (shout-out again to winner Questlove, a man who was denied the full spotlight).

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And, naturally, the comedian set out to have a little fun with the stars in his immediate line of sight.

As the Best Actor frontrunner, Smith had been beaming throughout the night—and he still was seconds after Rock called out to Jada Pinkett Smith, his co-star in three Madagascar movies, "Jada, I love ya, 'G.I. Jane 2,' can't wait to see it." 


But while Smith was amiably chuckling, you could see the smile slide right off of Pinkett Smith's face. Noticing that her eye roll had turned into a most unamused-looking expression, Rock offered, "That was a nice one, okay?"

He was moving on when he realized Smith was striding toward the stage, barely 10 seconds after the King Richard star had looked perfectly fine.

"Uh-oh," Rock noted with a smile.

And then...slap.

ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

At first it seemed as if that had to be a bit—it was the definition of a "wait, what?" moment—but we all now know it wasn't.

"Oh, wow! Wow. Will Smith just smacked the s--t out of me," Rock said as Smith walked away, still not looking altogether furious. Rather, he had sort of a pleased, that's-what-happens-when-you-mess-with-my-woman kind of expression on his face. Almost a grin.

"And That's How We Do It," son Jaden Smith tweeted, condoning his dad's actions from afar. (He'd join his whole family later that night at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party, where people deftly partied on, just as if one of the guests of honor wasn't about to be banned from attending the Oscars for 10 years. Rock chose to unwind inside the Gucci party at Guy Oseary's house.)

But back in the room where it happened, Smith returned to his seat and, looking more distressed, yelled at Rock, "Keep my wife's name out of your f--king mouth!"

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

To which Rock replied, "Wow, dude, it was a G.I. Jane joke." Smith reiterated, "Yes, keep my wife's name out of your f--king mouth!"

Rock was visibly flustered by then, but he rebounded, quipping, "That was the greatest night in the history of television, okay!"

Oscar officials shared that The Slap wasn't planned. (The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences confirmed that it doesn't condone violence early the following morning in a tweet. Last month, CEO Bill Kramer said a crisis team would be at the ready this year, JIC.)

Attendees including Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry spoke with Smith during the commercial break, while several stars hugged Pinkett Smith, who's been open about her ongoing struggle with alopecia. And then it became apparent that the show was just going go on, they weren't going to cross out Smith's name and write in "Benedict Cumberbatch" or anything. 

Lionel Hahn/Getty Images

Meaning, less than a half hour after he smacked Rock, Smith was back onstage accepting his Oscar for Best Actor. He apologized to the Academy (he'd resign from the organization a few days later) and his fellow nominees for his behavior.

Smith addressed an apology to Rock specifically the next day, writing on Instagram, "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."

The actor continued to chalk up what he admitted was "unacceptable" behavior to being pushed to the limit and overreacting to his wife being disrespected, saying in his speech and in his message to Rock that he knew better than to get bent out of shape over a joke.

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And when he returned to social media July 29 after a months-long hiatus, he reiterated in a video that there "is no part of me that thinks that's the optimal way to handle a feeling of disrespect or insults."

Smith inched back into public life, hitting The Daily Show in November and other spots where he felt comfortable talking about what happened, ahead of the Apple TV+ premiere of his film Emancipation—which he shot before The Slap.

There was lots of speculation about what might happen if he was nominated for an Oscar again but couldn't go, but the concern was unfounded—though Smith did win back-to-back NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture. (He skipped the Feb. 25 ceremony but gave thanks on Instagram, writing he was "humbled" by the honor.)

Kirill Bichutsky/Netflix

Rock, however, had a year to work it out, and he ultimately called b.s. on what could be interpreted as Smith taking his issues out on him.

"Will Smith practices selective outrage. Everybody know what the f--k happened," Rock suggested on his Netflix special. "Everybody that really knows, knows I had nothing to do with that s--t. I didn't have any 'entanglements.' His wife was f--king her son's friend."

Referring to Pinkett Smith sharing in 2020 that she'd had an extramarital "entanglement" while she and Smith were briefly separated, Rock continued, "Everybody in the world called him a bitch. I tried to call the mother--ker and give him my condolences, he didn't pick up for me...And who's he hit? Me, a n---- he knows he can beat. That is some bitch-a-- s--t."


The Smiths have not commented on that part of Rock's act.

But scroll on to see the visceral, in-the-moment reactions celebs had to Smith slapping Rock, when context was beside the point:

Jaden Smith: "And That's How We Do It"

Jaden Smith: "My Dads Speech Made Me Cry" 

Alec Baldwin: "I am not reading much about how, or even if, the producers attended to Chris. But I love you, @chrisrock . And I'm sorry the Oscars turned into the Jerry Springer show."

Michael Che: "Im just saying, im frankly disappointed that the academy would just let will smith PHYSICALLY ATTACK a man, onstage, just because he didnt like a joke!... After that childish overreaction, they hand this guy a trophy?!"

Zoe Kravitz: "here's a picture of my dress at the show where we are apparently assaulting people on stage now."

OJ Simpson: "It was unfortunate. I think Will was wrong. Look, I understood the feeling. In my life, I've been through a lot of crap, and I was raising two young kids, and every comedian in the country had an OJ routine, and don't think I wouldn't wanna slap a couple of those guys. But you gotta accept, it's humor. I didn't think that was all that egregious. I thought it was a semi-funny joke."


Thomas Haden Church: "I think that Will Smith should be banned from the Oscars for the rest of his life... I think he should have his Academy membership stripped, but I don't think he should have the Oscar taken from him."

Lamar Odom: "He loves his wife. I do not condone violence against anyone... would I have hit him?, NO but he did what a husband is called to do. Protect his wife, from anything and anyone who causes her pain. Had I protected my wife versus mentally, emotionally and spiritually hurting her, I may still be married."

Jim Carrey: "I was sickened by the standing ovation... I felt like Hollywood is just spineless en masse and it really felt like, oh, this is a really clear indication that we're not the cool club anymore... I'd have announced this morning that I was suing Will for $200 million because that video is going to be there forever. It's going to be ubiquitous. You know, that insult is gonna last a very long time."


Adam Sandler: "Can't wait for [Chris Rock's tour]. Love you buddy!"

Tiffany Haddish: "When I saw a Black man stand up for his wife. That meant so much to me…. As a woman, who has been unprotected, for someone to say, '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. And maybe the world might not like how it went down, but for me, it was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen because it made me believe that there are still men out there that love and care about their women, their wives."

Sophia Bush: "Violence isn't ok. Assault is never the answer. Also? This is the 2nd time that Chris has made fun of Jada on the #Oscars stage, & tonight he went after her alopecia. Punching down at someone's auto-immune disease is wrong. Doing so on purpose is cruel. They both need a breather."

Kathy Griffin: "Let me tell you something, it's a very bad practice to walk up on stage and physically assault a Comedian. Now we all have to worry about who wants to be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theaters."

Rob Reiner: "Will Smith owes Chris Rock a huge apology. There is no excuse for what he did. He's lucky Chris is not filing assault charges. The excuses he made tonight were bulls--t."

Mia Farrow: "It was just a joke. Jokes are what Chris Rock does. Always has been edgy. This was a mild joke for him. And i love GI Jane."

Nicki Minaj: "I love Chris Rock. I don't think he would've made that joke had he known what Jada recently shared- but between him & the whole team @ the #Oscars you mean to tell me not ONE of y'all heard this woman just share this heartbreaking story? #ComeOnSon … Here's the thing… And this is such an AMAZING - EYE OPENING example of it…  The husband gets a front row seat to his wife's pain… he's the 1 consoling her… drying her tears behind closed doors when those cameras go off. Social media has made ppl feel that these 'husbands' won't ever run into them in real life."

Cardi B: "At your highest moment …be careful that's when the devil tries to come for you."

Jamie Dornan: "What a fight, sorry, Night!"

Cheryl Burke: "I can't stop thinking about what we saw at the Oscars. I don't agree with making fun of a medical condition, but the way Will handled it wasn't ok. As a survivor of abuse, I think a leader of his stature should show kids, esp his own, how to handle conflict with love not fear."

Natasha Rothwell: "Never thought the La La land debacle would ever be eclipsed but here we are."

Trevor Noah: "Wtaf????? That wasn't scripted?????"

Maria Shriver: "We should never get to a place where we sit and watch a movie star hit someone on global television then, moments later, get a standing ovation while talking about love. #WillSmith #Oscars."

Margaret Joseph: "Wow so disappointed in Will Smiths behavior tonight. @chrisrock is a class act he handled himself with true professionalism . Amazing the way he kept it moving#Oscar."

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