The entertainment world was still buzzing Monday from one of the most bizarre and stunning Oscar moments ever, with best-actor nominee Will Smith smacking Chris Rock on the face on stage after the comedian made a joke about Smith’s wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith.
Rock was on stage at the Dolby Theatre Sunday night to present the Oscar for best documentary feature, but he peppered in some jokes, including one referencing Pinkett Smith’s bald head, suggesting she would be starring in a sequel to “G.I. Jane.”
Pinkett Smith has talked in the past about having the hair-loss condition alopecia. Her husband, who initially appeared to be laughing at Rock’s quip, didn’t take it well.
Smith, who was seated in the front of the theater, walked onto the stage and smacked Rock, in a move that initially drew some nervous laughs from the crowd, believing it was a pre-planned comedy skit. But Smith stalked back to his seat, then sternly screamed at Rock twice, telling him to “keep my wife’s name out of your (expletive) mouth.”
The audience then fell into a stunned silence.
Rock went on to present the award amid an awkward silence inside the Dolby Theatre.
Later in the show, Smith returned to the Oscar stage when he won the prize for best actor for his performance in “King Richard,” portraying the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams.
“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” Smith said to begin his acceptance speech, drawing nervous laughter from the audience.
Fighting back tears, he later added, “I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to my fellow nominees.” He also appeared to express sorrow for his actions overshadowing the success of the film.
“I want to be a vessel for love,” he said. “I want to say thank you to Venus and Serena … and the entire Williams family for trusting me with your story. That’s what I wanted to do, I wanted to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern.”
He also said later, “I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams. … Love will make you do crazy things.”
Smith never mentioned Rock in his acceptance speech, which he ended by saying, “Hopefully the Academy invites me back.”
Smith said fellow best-actor nominee Denzel Washington had given him some appropriate words: “Denzel said to me at your highest moment be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”
Smith did not speak to reporters in the backstage press room after his Oscar win.
After the show ended, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences posted on its Twitter page, “The Academy does not condone violence of any form. Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Awards winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.”
The Los Angeles Police Department issued a statement saying that Rock had declined to pursue any charges against Smith.
“LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” according to the department. “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.”
Sean “Diddy” Combs briefly addressed the situation when he took the stage immediately after the slapping incident to introduce a 50th anniversary celebration of “The Godfather.”
“Will and Chris, we’re going to solve that like family,” he said.
At the Vanity Fair post-Oscars party later Sunday night, Combs told Page Six that the Smith-Rock feud was “over.
“That’s not a problem. That’s over,” Combs said. “I can confirm that. It’s all love. They’re brothers.”
Smith also attended the Vanity Fair party and was caught on camera smiling and dancing with fellow party-goers — many of whom whipped out their cell phones to capture the festive moment.
At some point, Smith added a comment to one of his earlier Instagram posts, reading “You can’t invite people from Philly or Baltimore nowhere!!”
Rock has not commented on the incident.
Reaction among the entertainment community has varied widely.
Actor/director Rob Reiner wrote on Twitter that Smith owes Rock a “huge apology.”
“There is no excuse for what he did,” Reiner wrote. “He’s lucky Chris is not filing assault charges.”
Actress Rosie O’Donnell called Smith’s actions “a sad display of toxic masculinity from a narcissistic madman.”
Some critics questioned why Smith was permitted to remain in the theater after the incident, and others blasted the celebrities in attendance for later giving him a standing ovation as he accepted his Oscar. Others also questioned the impact the seeming acceptance of Smith’s actions will have on comediants — who have historically had to learn how to handle hecklers.
“Hey professional comedians: be on notice! From now on, you need to make sure your jokes don’t offend people,” singer Richard Marx tweeted. “Especially extremely attractive, famous and exorbitantly wealthy people.”
Comedian Kathy Griffin added, “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.”
Will Packer, one of the producers of Sunday night’s telecast, tweeted simply, “Welp … I said it wouldn’t be boring #Oscars.”
Director/producer Marshall Herskovitz, whose producing credits include “The Last Samurai” and “Blood Diamond,” called for firmer action by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, tweeting, “I call upon the Academy, of which I am a member, to take disciplinary action against Will Smith. He disgraced our entire community tonight.”
But Smith had his supporters. Comedian Tiffany Haddish told People magazine she was proud to see Smith stand up for his wife.
“That meant so much to me,” she said. “As a woman who has been unprotected, for someone to say like, `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.”