Will Smith has issued a formal public apology to Chris Rock, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the cast and crew of King Richard and The Williams Family following a bittersweet evening at the Academy Awards yesterday.
Most notably, Will Smith took home his first-ever Oscar, winning for Best Actor for his role as Richard Williams, father of tennis phenoms Venus and Serena Williams, in the critically acclaimed film King Richard. However, just twenty short minutes before that, Smith made headlines for his emotional response to an off-color joke at his wife’s expense.
In a comment that was reportedly not scripted, rehearsed, or pre-approved by The Academy beforehand, Chris Rock took a passing jab at Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald haircut while presenting the award for Best Documentary Feature, telling her that he couldn’t wait to see her starring in G.I. Jane 2, a reference to the 1997 Demi Moore film that saw the lead actress shaving her head on camera.
Pinkett Smith, who has gone on record saying that she now cuts her hair low or bald due to an ongoing battle with hair loss was caught by Oscars’ broadcast cameras looking visibly off-put by the joke.
Though Smith was initially seen attempting to laugh the joke off, he soon approached Rock on-stage, struck him across the face, and twice yelled at Rock to refrain from mentioning his wife in his jokes upon returning to his seat.
Naturally, the moment shifted the energy in the auditorium and shocked viewers at home, making viral rounds across social media into the following day. Smith made some allusion to the incident while accepting his trophy, issuing a general apology to The Academy and his fellow nominees towards the end of his tearful acceptance speech.
Now, Smith has issued a formal statement via Instagram, further explaining his actions and apologizing more formally to Rock, The Academy, and all those who made King Richard possible.
“Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable,” Smith wrote. Confirming many suspicions, Smith revealed that the reason for his reaction was indeed the perceived disrespect aimed at his wife Jada, prodding at her health struggle.
“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,” he continued, before issuing a formal public apology to the comedian himself.
“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 deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us,” he concluded. “I am a work in progress.”
Rock, for his part, reportedly had no idea that Pinkett Smith is suffering a medical condition when he decided to make the comment. A close friend of Rock tells TMZ that he “doesn’t have a mean bone in his body,” and would never take an intentionally hurtful dig of that nature.