The 2022 Academy Awards had been a pretty lackluster affair for the first hour or two. It’s clear the Academy wants to turn its big night into the MTV Video Music Awards. They cut eight technical awards from the official presentation, insulting untold moviemakers and fans; they added fan-vote categories like Best Action Movie Whatever (it was dumb and I can’t be bothered to look up what it was called). There was an empty Bond tribute and an even emptier Godfather tribute. The show was largely devoid of personality! And then Will Smith slapped Chris Rock.
If you’re reading this, I assume you already know why this happened. For time capsule posterity, though, I’ll set this up just a smidge. So Chris Rock came onstage to deliver the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. He riffed for a minute first, because there was an audience and he is Chris Rock. One of his jokes was about how Jada Pinkett Smith looks great bald and how Rock can’t wait to see her in GI Jane 2. After that, Will Smith came up, the audio on the American feed cut out, and all hell broke loose. So: What did Will Smith say to Chris Rock onstage after The Slap?
Fortunately for American viewers, most international broadcast feeds did not censor the exchange. The legendary Tim Burke, best known for his video editing work at Deadspin, shared the complete scene between Rock and Smith from a Japanese network. Before the transcript, here’s the video itself:
VIA JAPANESE TELEVISION: The uncensored exchange between Will Smith and Chris Rock pic.twitter.com/j0Z184ZyXa
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) March 28, 2022
“Oh, wow! Wow.” Rock said. “Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me.”
Then Smith, who had promptly marched back to his seat after striking Rock, shouted “Keep my wife’s name out your fuckin’ mouth!” Which prompted this exchange:
CHRIS ROCK: Wow, dude!
WILL SMITH: Yes.
ROCK: It was a GI Jane joke.
SMITH: Keep my wife’s name out your fuckin‘ mouth!
ROCK: I’m going to. Okay?
Rock then shook his head and mumbled for a moment, before saying “Okay.” [Another pause.] “That was, uh…the greatest night in the history of television!” After which he resumed presenting the award for Best Documentary Feature.
Watching at home, I thought at first that it was a bit. It looked like Smith stomped his foot at the same time he slapped Rock, which I assumed he did to amplify the sound and improve the ruse. But hand to God I also assumed Pinkett-Smith had been in a GI Joe reboot at some point and then got her own spinoff and the spinoff flopped. I’m probably the last person in the world to find out that she has alopecia; I thought Rock was making a dumb joke about how her movie had bombed. And since both Jada and Will had laughed at jokes about their open marriage during an earlier bit, it just seemed like this was the husband playing along again.
Of course, it was not. Both Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry came over to talk to Smith during the commercial break.
Also Tyler Perry talked to Will & Denzel after pic.twitter.com/EKWGHxsFjI
— Yesha (@YeshaCallahan) March 28, 2022
Bradley Cooper and Nicole Kidman apparently also offered hugs and / or counsel. While the show was still going on, Page Six reported that Smith and Rock had agreed, through intermediary Sean Combs, to work things out, presumably before the post-show parties began. No idea if that actually happened, though Smith seemed to be having a good time following his Best Actor win for King Richard.
John Sharp is Starcasm’s chief editorial correspondent-at-large. E-mail him a hot tip.