The elephant in the room. It’s been one year since Will Smith infamously slapped Chris Rock at the Academy Awards, but the incident’s aftermath was very much present at the 2023 Oscars.
Host Jimmy Kimmel kicked off the show — which was held at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles — by stating that while he wants the nominees to “have fun [and] feel safe,” he jokingly added, “most importantly, we want me to feel safe.”
Noting that there are “strict policies in place” this year, the late-night host, 55, continued: “If anyone in this theatre commit an act of violence at any point during the show, you will be awarded the Oscar for Best Actor and permitted to give a 19-minute long speech. But seriously, The Academy has a crisis team in place. If anything unpredictable or violent happens during the show, sit there and do absolutely nothing. Maybe even give the assailant a hug.”
Referencing Smith’s song “Get Jiggy With It,” Kimmel added that if any celebs “get made at a joke and decide you want to get jiggy with it — it’s not going to be easy,” before pointing out that actors such as Michael B. Jordan, Andrew Garfield and Michelle Yeoh will protect him.
While introducing Best Documentary Feature presenters Riz Ahmed and Questlove later in the show, the host noted that the category was the one Rock, 58, was on stage to present before the slap in 2022. “Hopefully, this time it goes off without a hitch, or at least without Hitch,” Kimmel joked, referencing Smith’s 2005 rom-com Hitch, in which he played the titular matchmaker.
Kimmel addressed the slap a third time while joking about the show’s long runtime, asking the crowd, “This point in the show kinda makes you miss the slapping, right?”
The 54-year-old Fresh Prince of Bel-Air alum, for his part, was not in attendance at the awards, as the Academy banned him from attending all Academy-related events for 10 years following the incident.
Host Jimmy Kimmel previously stated in a November 2022 interview with Extra that the slap would “come up in some way” during the 2023 ceremony.
“You know, I don’t want to really make light of it necessarily, because it wasn’t [light] to comedians,” Kimmel, 55, explained at the time. “But of course … when they read the wrong winner one year when I hosted the Oscars, we had to make mention of that the next year.”
Earlier this month, Rock, 58, addressed the altercation during his new Netflix stand-up special, Selective Outrage.
“I’m not a victim,” he stated. “You will never see [me crying about it]. Never gonna happen.”
The Grown Ups star added: “Anyone who says words hurt has never been punched in the face. … I got smacked at the f–king Oscars by this motherf–ker. And people are like, ‘Did it hurt?’ It still hurts!”
During last year’s ceremony, the King Richard star approached the stage and slapped Rock across the face after the comedian made a joke that Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, should star in a G.I. Jane sequel. The quip was not one Will took lightly, as the Red Table Talk host, 51, has been candid about her hair loss due to alopecia.
Upon returning to his seat, Will yelled at the presenter, “Keep my wife’s name out your f–king mouth,” to which Rock responded, “I’m going to — OK?” The Emancipation star went on to take home the award for Best Actor for his role as Serena and Venus Williams’ father, Richard Williams, in the 2021 film King Richard.
The Wild, Wild West actor publicly apologized to Rock the following day, writing via social media, “Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.”
He continued: “I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. 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. I would also like to apologize to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world. I would like to apologize to the Williams Family and my King Richard Family. I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us. I am a work in progress. Sincerely, Will.”
The Academy soon launched an investigation into the incident, during which the Aladdin star resigned from the organization in on April 1, 2022. One week later, the Academy made the decision to ban Smith from attending “any Academy events or programs, in person or virtually, including but not limited to the Academy Awards” for 10 years.
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