Actor Will Smith has broken his months-long silence on the infamous moment he slapped Chris Rock at the Academy Awards, saying he has reached out to Rock but the comedian is “not ready to talk” yet.
Smith stormed on stage and struck Rock, who was hosting the awards, after the comedian made a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head. She suffers from alopecia.
“Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth,” he shouted after summarizing his seat.
A visibly shell-shocked Rock continued with the ceremony, and Smith went on to win the award for Best Actor for his role in king richard.
That was back in March. Smith was subsequently banned from the Oscars for ten years, though the Academy stopped short of rescinding his award.
“Over the last few months, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and personal work,” Smith told his fans in a video posted on his YouTube channel overnight.
“You asked a lot of fair questions that I wanted to take some time to answer.”
He ran through several of those questions, the first of which was: “Why didn’t you apologize to Chris in your acceptance speech?”
“I was fogged out by that point. It’s all fuzzy,” Smith said.
“I’ve reached out to Chris, and the message that came back is he’s not ready to talk, and when he is he will reach out.
“I will say to you Chris, I apologize to you. My behavior was unacceptable and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk.
“I want to apologize to Chris’s mother. I saw an interview that Chris’s mother did, and you know, that was one of the things about that moment, I just didn’t realize, I wasn’t thinking how many people got hurt in that moment. So I want to apologize to Chris’s mother, to his family of him, specifically Tony Rock. ”
Tony Rock, and actor and comedian, is Chris’s younger brother.
“We had a great relationship. You know, Tony Rock was my man. And this is probably irreparable,” Smith continued.
“I spent the last three months replaying and understanding the nuances and the complexities of what happened in that moment.
“I’m not going to try to unpack all of that right now, but I can say to all of you, there is no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment. There’s no part of me that thinks that’s the optimal way to handle a feeling of disrespect or insults.”
The next question asked whether Pinkett Smith had asked her husband to do anything after visibly rolling her eyes at Rock’s joke, before Smith stormed the stage.
“No,” was Smith’s concise answer.
“I made a choice on my own, from my own experiences, from my history with Chris. Jada had nothing to do with it. I’m sorry babe. I want to say sorry to my kids and my family for the heat that I brought on all of us.
“To all my fellow nominees – this is a community. It’s like, I won because you voted for me. It really breaks my heart to have stolen and tarnished your moment. I can still see Questlove’s eyes. It happened on Questlove’s award, and … sorry really isn’t sufficient.”
Questlove, a musician, won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature for Summer of Soul. His award from him was announced immediately after the onstage incident between Smith and Rock.
“What would you say to the people who looked up to you before the slap, or people who expressed that you let them down?” was the next question.
“One, disappointing people is my central trauma. I hate when I let people down. So it hurts me psychologically and emotionally to know I didn’t live up to people’s image and impression of me,” Smith responded.
“The work I’m trying to do is, I’m deeply remorseful, and I’m trying to be remorseful without being ashamed of myself. I’m human. And I made a mistake, and I am trying not to think of myself as a piece of s***.
“So I would say to those people: I know it was confusing, I know it was shocking. But I promise you, I am deeply devoted and committed to putting light and love and joy into the world. And you know, if you hang on, I promise we’ll be able to be friends again.”
At that point, the screen faded to black and the video ended.
Smith’s public remarks come a few days after Rock broke his own silence on the incident, addressing it during stand-up comedy shows in New York and New Jersey.
“Yeah, that s*** hurt motherf***er. But I shook that s*** off and went to work the next day,” Rock said while performing alongside fellow comedians Kevin Hart and Dave Chappelle.
“Anyone who says ‘words hurt’ has never been punched in the face.”
He also declared he was “not a victim” and would not “go to the hospital for a paper cut”.
Rock previously spoke about the slap during a show in the United Kingdom in May, when he quipped that he’d “got most of my hearing back”.
“People expect me to talk about the bulls***. I’m not going to talk about it right now. I’ll get to it eventually – on Netflix,” he said with a laugh.