Will Smith slaps Chris Rock at the Oscars: A timeline of all the drama

Will Smith slaps Chris Rock at the Oscars: A timeline of all the drama
Footage emerges of Chris Rock's face after slap at the Oscars

It’s been days since Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars, and still it’s the only showbiz story people are talking about.

The strangest, ugliest moment in recent Oscars history will continue to make headlines and provoke discussion for years, and it feels like an era-defining moment for all the wrong reasons.

In the world of celebrity culture, there was life before Will Smith slap, and there was life after it, and its impact will rumble on and on.

We should recap what happened, just in case anyone managed to miss it.

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Rock was presenting the award for Best Documentary when Smith stepped onto the stage at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood and proceeded to hit Rock, following a joke he’d made about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith.

“Will Smith just smacked the s*** out of me,” Rock said at the time, before Smith shouted: “Keep my wife's name, out of your f***ing mouth."

Since then, it’s the only thing people have been talking about, and there have been plenty of revelations to emerge since then.

This is a timeline of all the events surrounding the biggest slap in showbiz history.

Sunday evening – Smith slaps Rock

The incident itself came after Rock began by making a G.I. Jane joke at the expense of Smith's wife Jada Pinkett-Smith while onstage to present the Best Documentary award.

Smith was presumably upset given the reason for his wife's short-hair; she's battled with alopecia for years.

"Jada, can't wait for G.I. Jane 2,” Rock said, making a reference to her shaven head.

The actress previously spoke about her decision to shave her head after being diagnosed with the condition, including during a 2018 episode of her Facebook Watch series, Red Table Talk.

“It was terrifying when it first started… I was in the shower one day and had just handfuls of hair in my hands and I was just like, ‘Oh, my God, am I going bald?’”

Smith, despite appearing to laugh at the joke initially, walked on stage and slapped Rock, leaving him stunned – with the footage later showing just how dazed Rock was left by the incident.

Later that evening – Smith wins Best Actor for his performance in King Richard

A short time later, Smith was able to walk onto the stage again, this time to collect the Best Actor award for his performance in King Richard, having been consoled by Denzel Washington, Tyler Perry and Bradley Cooper.

Smith offered an apology to the Academy, but not to Rock, and also appeared to make light of the incident with a joke about ‘art imitating life’ and ‘looking like the crazy father’.

The speech read: “Denzel [Washington] said to me a few minutes ago, ‘At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.’ I want to be a vessel for love. I want to say thank you to Venus and Serena … and the entire Williams family for entrusting me with your story.

“That’s what I want to do. I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy, I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees. This is a beautiful moment and I’m not crying for winning an award. It’s not about winning an award for me; it’s about being able to shine a light on all the people … and the entire cast and crew of King Richard and Venus and Serena and the entire Williams family. Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams! But, love will make you do crazy things.”

During the ceremony – Smith asked to leave but refuses

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has since said that Smith was asked to leave Sunday's Oscars but refused.

It comes after many questioned why Smith was allowed to remain seated in the front row at the Academy Awards after the incident. On Wednesday, the Academy suggested that it attempted to remove the actor from the audience.

“Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated,” the Academy said. “While we would like to clarify that Mr. Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognize we could have handled the situation differently.”

Monday morning – Smith apologises in lengthy social media post

Smith later publicly apologised to Rock, writing in a statement on Monday that his behaviour was “unacceptable and inexcusable”.

Smith wrote: "Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behaviour 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.

"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 behaviour has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us.

"I am a work in progress."

Monday – Smith’s mum says she’s ‘surprised’ by slap

Smith’s mum has said she was “surprised” upon seeing her son slap Rock in a statement released the next day.

Smith’s mother, Caroline Bright, told Philadelphia news station Action News: “He is a very even, people person,” adding that she was “surprised” by his actions.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen him go off. First time in his lifetime,” she said. “I’ve never seen him do that.”

She added that she was “proud” of Smith following his Best Actor win on the night.

Monday – Jada Pinkett Smith breaks silence

Pinkett Smith has shared her first social media post since the incident on Instagram.

The post didn’t give much away and simply stated the following words against a pale pink background: “This is a season for healing and I’m here for it”.

Monday – Richard Williams criticises the slap

Richard Williams hit out at SmithJim McIsaac/Getty Images

The real-life tennis coach portrayed in King Richard by Will Smith, Richard Williams, distanced himself from the film star's on-stage antics with a statement on Monday evening.

In a statement to NBC News via his son and spokesperson Chavoita LeSane, Williams said: “We don’t know all the details of what happened. But we don’t condone anyone hitting anyone else unless it’s in self-defence.”

Tuesday - False claims spreading online are called out

There’s been a whole lot of disinformation spread in the aftermath of the incident, including a fabricated letter of apology attributed to Rock.

The biggest false claim said that Rock issued a public apology for his joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, saying he “crossed a line that I shouldn’t have and paid the enormous price of my reputation as a renown comedian.”

It was one of the claims refuted on Tuesday.

Wednesday - ‘Outraged’ Academy promises ‘appropriate action’

The Academy promised “appropriate action” against Will Smith in a letter obtained by Variety, after the fallout from Sunday’s ceremony.

Academy leadership has said they were “upset and outraged” that Smith’s actions overshadowed what was meant to be a “celebration of the many individuals in our community who did incredible work this past year.”

Signed by president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson, the letter read: “To be clear, we condemn Mr Smith’s actions that transpired Sunday night.”

“As outlined in our bylaws, the Academy’s Board of Governors will now make a determination on appropriate action for Mr Smith,” they wrote in the letter sent to Academy members, adding, “This must follow an official process that will take a few weeks.”

Wednesday evening – Chris Rock breaks silence

Rock spoke about the incident for the first time in his opening comments to the audience at his show in Boston’s Wilbur Theatre, beginning by saying: “So… how was your weekend?”

After the crowd greeted him with a standing ovation, Rock, continued: “Let me be all misty and s***”, with tears in his eyes.

“I don’t have a bunch of s*** to say about that, so if you came here for that...” Rock added, saying: “I had written a whole show before this weekend.

“I’m still processing what happened, so at some point I’ll talk about that s***,” the comedian also said on Wednesday, adding, “It’ll be serious. It’ll be funny, but right now I’m going to tell some jokes.”

Friday - Will Smith resigns from the Oscars Academy

Smith stepped away from the organisation for his “shocking, painful, and inexcusable" actions, saying he felt "heartbroken" and had “betrayed the trust of the Academy”.

The Academy confirmed it had received the actor's resignation and would push forward with disciplinary proceedings against him, the details of which are to be discussed at a board meeting on April 18. Smith said he would accept any consequences that emerged from his scheduled disciplinary hearing.

On Friday, Smith apologised again to his fellow nominees and winners for having “deprived” them of the opportunity to celebrate their achievements on the night.

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