Will Smith shocked Oscars viewers on Sunday night when he walked on stage and smacked Chris Rock across the face after he made a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith's alopecia.
Chris was presenting the award for Best Documentary Film when he referenced Jada's lack of hair, saying, "Jada, I love ya. GI Jane 2, can't wait to see it!"
Jada has spoken openly about having a form of alopecia - a condition that causes you to lose hair - since 2018, and looked clearly unimpressed by the joke which referenced a 1997 film about a female soldier with a shaved head.
The line was met with uncomfortable laughter by the rest of the audience, and moments later Will was out of his seat and approaching Chris on the stage.
He walked directly up to Chris and hit him across the face, before returning to his seat. In the US, the audio was then cut from the live broadcast, however it continued uncensored in Australia.
"Oh wow, wow!" a shocked Chris said, "Will Smith just smacked the s**t out of me."
From his seat, Will could then be heard shouting, "Keep my wife's name out your f***ing mouth!"
"Wow, dude! It was a GI Jane joke," Chris said, attempting to defend himself.
Will shouted once again, "Keep my wife's name out your f***ing mouth!"
"I'm going to, OK?" Chris responded. "That was the greatest night in the history of television."
Will Smith attempts to explain himself
Not long after the incident, Will won the award for Best Male Actor for his role in King Richard - a film about tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams, and their father Richard - and used his acceptance speech to address what had happened.
"Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family, in this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world," Will said, with tears in his eyes.
"I'm being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people, and I know when we do what we do, you gotta be able to take abuse, you've gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you, in this business you're gonna have people disrespect you and you've gotta smile and pretend it's OK."
Although he did not directly mention Chris, he referenced the hit saying, "Denzel [Washington] told me backstage, 'At your highest moment, be careful, that's when the devil comes for you'."
"I want to apologise to the Academy, I want to apologise to all my fellow nominees," he said, adding, "Art imitates life, I look like the crazy father… but love will make you do crazy things."
"Thank you for this honour, thank you for this moment... I'm hoping the Academy invites me back. Thank you!"
Social media blows up
Unsurprisingly, social media was quick to react to violent incident, although initially many were confused about whether the moment was real or staged.
"Will Smith really just smacked Chris Rock on national TV," one Twitter user said.
"Will Smith just punched Chris Rock live at the #Oscars in an unscripted moment for the ages," a second wrote.
"Fake fake fake. Chris Rock and Will Smith doing some kind of publicity stunt," a third user remarked, while someone else joked, "It turns out it was staged. I've reverse Google image searched him and the guy who punched Chris Rock is a professional actor."
Interestingly, Will had posted a short video of himself and wife Jada to Instagram earlier that night, captioning it, "Me ‘n @jadapinkettsmith got all dressed up to choose chaos."
It prompted one user to joke, "Caption predicted the future."
Will later made light of the incident on Instagram, joking that, "You can't invite people from Philly or Baltimore nowhere!!"
Fans seemed divided over what happened, with many heavily criticising the actor for responding with violence, while others defended him for standing up for his wife.
The LAPD has said it is aware of the incident but that "the individual involved has declined to file a police report."
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