Oscars 2022: How Slapgate went down (Images credit: AFP)
Will Smith was having the Oscars of his life – as frontrunner for Best Actor – until he began having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Oscars and then went right back to having the best Oscars ever. In a story that could easily have been a film plot, he was both the hero and the villain of the 94th Academy Awards that were held in Los Angeles. The short version – Will slapped Chris Rock over a joke about wife Jada and then won an Oscar. The long version below – here is how Slapgate, or "the slap seen around the world" as it's become known on social media, went down.
The first thing to know is that Jada Pinkett suffers from alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss and because of which she wears her hair almost shaved down to the scalp. Jada revealed in 2018 that she has alopecia and has described it as “terrifying” to deal with.
Jada Pinkett on the Oscars red carpet (Image credit: AFP)
Maybe presenter Chris Rock didn't know that Jada's bald head is not her look by choice; maybe he did know and decided to joke about it anyway. “Jada, can't wait for GI Jane 2,” he quipped – GI Jane is a reference to a 90s film in which Demi Moore stars as a female Navy SEAL and in which she wears her hair closely cropped as SEALs do.
Chris Rock at the Oscars (Image credit: AFP)
Jada's first reaction was an eye roll and Will seemed to laugh, even. The camera, which was on the Smiths, cut back to Chris; moments later, it captured Will storming up to Chris Rock and decking him – right there on a live broadcast being watched around the globe. Returning to his seat, Will yelled, “Keep my wife's name out of your f*****g mouth.”
Will Smith slaps Chris Rock (Image credit: AFP)
A moment so absolutely over the top could not be anything but staged – could it? Turns out, it could. Chris Rock kept calm and carried on after saying, “Will Smith slapped the s**t out of me.” In the star-studded audience, the reactions made it clear that this was no scripted skit.
Minutes later, Will Smith won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in King Richard – as he was expected to do. It seemed that by then, better sense had prevailed, helped in part by fellow Best Actor nominee Denzel Washington who gave Will some friendly advice during the commercial break. “I want to apologise to the Academy. I want to apologise to all my fellow nominees,” Will said in his speech – pointedly leaving out Chris Rock's name.
“I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things,” said a tearful Will before revealing what Denzel told him: "Thank you Denzel, who said to me a few minutes ago... he said, 'at your highest moment, be careful, that's when the devil comes for you.'”
Will Smith's emotional speech (Image credit: AFP)
On social media, Slapgate is occupying characters and mind space. Blame has been placed on both the slapper, Will Smith, and the slappee, Chris Rock. Here are two reaction tweets from Hollywood, each condemning one party:
The Smiths have closed rank, of course. “And that's how we do it,” tweeted Will and Jada's son Jaden Smith who was at the Oscars.
In a brief tweeted statement, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said it does not “condone violence of any form.” Meantime, Chris Rock has declined to file a police complaint, the Los Angeles Police Department said.
Will Smith posed for pictures with his family after his Best Actor win. He was later seen partying at the annual Vanity Fair post-Oscar bash like Slapgate hadn't happened.
Will Smith gets jiggy with it at the Vanity Fair party (Image credit: Getty)
Had Slapgate actually not happened, the enormity of Will Smith's Oscar would not have been all but eclipsed – he is only the fifth African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor after Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx and Forest Whitaker.