In perhaps the most stunning moment in Academy Awards history, actor and musician Will Smith stood up from his chair and got on stage while comedian Chris Rock was speaking and punched him in front of a live audience of millions.
It began like this: Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett. Perhaps unbeknownst to Rock, Jada has alopecia, a condition during which the person suffering can no longer grow hair.
Rock joked about Jada starring in G.I.Jane 2. The first G.I..Jane starred Demi Moore and was about a woman in the army. In the movie, Moore shaves her head.
Smith, though, first seemed to laugh at the joke. But Jada rolled her eyes. That could have been it.
But Smith decided to step on stage and approach Rock, who said, “Oh no,” thinking, like everyone else (but Smith), that a congenial act would take place. Maybe Smith would get on the microphone and tell Rock his joke wasn’t funny.
Smith punched Rock directly in the face, making the thud noise.
“Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me,” Rock said.
Smith walked back to his seat. Then shouted twice: “Keep my wife’s name out your fucking mouth!”
Not a good look. For anyone.
Though the volume was muted in the U.S., in Australia the whole exchange could be heard. While many may have thought it was staged, this confirms it was not.
After that, Rock was visibly phased. He couldn’t get his lines out. It put a pall over the whole ceremony.
“That was the greatest night in the history of television,” Rock managed to say. He’s probably right—for all the wrong reasons, sadly.
The whole thing is especially strange because Smith is nominated for Best Actor for his role in the acclaimed film, King Richard. Smith was also favored to win the award—which he did, coming to tears on stage.
Many on Twitter can’t believe what they saw.
Though, rapper and record producer P. Diddy offered to squash any future beef between the two famous entertainers.
Wrote The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg: “Holy shit! Was that real?! Chris Rock makes a joke about Jada, Will Smith walked to stage and smacked Chris, and Will yelled twice, “Keep my wife’s name outta your fucking mouth!” People are looking around, mouths agape, trying to figure out if this was real or setup. Seems real!”