Will Smith punches Chris Rock at the Oscars
Oscars

When Chris Rock started cracking GI Jane jokes at the expense of Will Smith's wife Jada Pinkett-Smith, US TV viewers were left baffled as the broadcast suddenly froze.

The feed was temporarily pulled, and then muted as it cut back in, with Will Smith appearing to be angry and shouting.

But viewers in Australia and Japan got a far clearer picture of events on stage at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles. Piers Morgan called it the "ugliest moment in Oscars history".

Chris Rock can be seen chuckling as Will Smith walks onto the stage. But as he reaches the host, Smith swing his fist or palm at the comic, sending the comic flailing backwards and exclaiming: "Oh wow."

"Will Smith just smacked the s*** out of me," Rock said. Smith, who'd returned to his seat, looked furious as he shouted: "Keep my wife's name, out of your f***ing mouth."

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

Rock tried to calm the situation, saying: "It was a GI Jane joke," but Smith angrily repeated his warning, to which Rock responded: "I'm going to, OK?"

Apparently still dazed, he said: "That was the greatest night in the history of television," but the audience was too stunned to clap.

It almost broke the internet too, immediately in America the words WAS THAT REAL started trending, with people in genuine disbelief.

Slow-motion footage also showed that it was a real, physical hit to Rock, not a publicity stunt:

Denzel Washington, Bradley Cooper, and Tyler Perry were seen appearing to console Smith after the incident.

Smith went on to receive the award for Best Actor for his performance in King Richard, and became incredibly emotional.

He praised Richard Williams – the father of Venus and Serena Williams whom he portrays in the film – as a “fierce defender of his family”.

“I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people,” said Smith.

He continued: “I know, to do what we do, we’ve gotta be able to take abuse. You’ve gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you’ve gotta be able to have people disrespecting you.

“You’ve gotta smile and pretend that that’s okay. But Richard Williams and what I love – what Denzel [Washington] said to me a few minutes ago – ‘In your highest moments, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.’”

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