Viewers and attendees were shocked when Smith, 53, rushed onto the stage during the Sunday, March 27, awards show after Rock, 57, made Jada Pinkett Smith the butt of one of his jokes. “Jada, I love you. G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see it. Alright?” the former Saturday Night Live cast member quipped, referring to the 50-year-old actress’ shaved head.
The comment prompted Smith to march up to Rock and slap him across the face. Once he returned to his seat, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air alum yelled, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f–king mouth.”
Social media was instantly abuzz as Oscars fans attempted to determine whether the moment was scripted. Even producers were left “scrambling” after the shocking incident, a source exclusively told Us Weekly.
“The higher-ups from the Academy, once they realized the slap was real, were first focused on making sure Chris was OK,” the insider added. “Several workers went to check on [Chris] after the slap and he told everyone he was fine.”
Smith and Rock “did not see each other” after their heated exchange, per the source. “Everyone knew where Chris and Will were afterward and were not about to let them interact again for safety reasons.”
The King Richard actor went on to win the best actor trophy for his portrayal of Serena Williams and Venus Williams‘ father and tennis coach, Richard Williams. During his emotional speech, Smith reflected on the responsibility he felt to protect his costars, his family and Richard’s story. “Love will make you do crazy things,” he said through tears.
Comedians were quick to stand up for Rock, who was “surprised” by Smith’s actions, a second source told Us. “If he was shaken up, he didn’t let on,” the insider said of Rock.
Smith, for his part, issued a public apology via social media on Monday, March 28. “Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive,” he wrote in a lengthy Instagram statement. “My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable.”
The Gemini Man actor said he “reacted emotionally,” adding, “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.”
Pinkett Smith shared her own subtle response to the situation one day later, uploading a quote to Instagram that read, “This is a season for healing and I’m here for it.”
Scroll down to see how comedians are reacting to the now-viral moment: