Los Angeles, Mar 28 (EFE).- The 94th edition of the Academy Awards will go down in history as the night on which US actor Will Smith lost his temper and slapped comedian Chris Rock onstage but not even an incident like that ended the gala event where, just as in every previous year, there were winners and losers, dreams fulfilled and much to celebrate.
The Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles was full for the event in a return to normality and everything was prepared to allow the attendees – Hollywood stars, film industry figures, the rich and famous and invited guests – to experience a perfect evening.
The celebration continued after the gala ceremony, despite the fact that some stars did not attend the governor’s dance and those who did could not stop talking about the incident that marked the soiree.
During the ceremony itself, there were moments of humor as the presenters – Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes and Regine Hall – were introducing the nominees, up until the point where Chris Rock came out with his tasteless joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith’s wife, who was seated beside the actor in the audience, and things got rather nasty.
The incident erupted when Rock was presenting the Academy Award for best documentary, during his remarks turning to Smith’s wife in the audience and cracking “Jada, I love you,” adding that he couldn’t wait to see her star in the sequel to “G.I. Jane,” the 1997 comedy in which actress Demi Moore shaved her head to play an army recruit.
Although Rock had aimed a few barbs at Smith and his wife from the stage during the 2016 Oscars, this time his joke resonated extraordinarily badly because he was apparently unaware that Pinkett Smith suffers from alopecia, a condition that she has publicly acknowledged and which causes a person to lose their hair. Her hair had been shaved quite closely, and it was this that Rock was highlighting.
As soon as Rock hurled his zinger, an angry Will Smith sprang from his seat and rushed onstage, where he slapped Rock hard in the face, shouting “Keep my wife’s name out your f—–g mouth!” whereupon the audience fell silent with shock.
Rock was stunned but tried to go on with the show, ad-libbing “That was the greatest night in the history of television” and later backstage remarking “I just got punched in the face by Muhammad Ali and didn’t get a scratch,” referring to Smith’s role as the iconic boxer in a 2001 biopic, a performance for which he received an Oscar nomination.
Smith no doubt quickly regretted having reacted to Rock’s joke in the way he did, but a few minutes later when he won the Oscar for best actor for his role in “King Richard” and gave his acceptance speech he apologized tearfully only to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the other award nominees, but not to Rock.
In his remarks, Smith went on to justify his action by styling himself as a protective father and husband and saying that “Art imitates life. I looked like the crazy father … But love will make you do crazy things.”
“I want to apologize to the Academy and I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees,” he said before the stunned audience, who remained silent and unsettled during his rather long remarks.
Starting then, all the talk for the rest of the evening was about who was to blame, whether Smith should have controlled himself or if Rock’s joke about his wife was sufficient provocation for the actor to assault him.
Alopecia can affect both men and women, and in Pinkett Smith’s case it could have arisen due to a genetic propensity that causes an autoimmune reaction that, aside from hair loss, can also cause emotional and/or psychological ups and downs.
“It’s a loss of hair limited to one area … generally on the scalp but also on other parts of the body such as the eyebrows, the beard,” the head of dermatology at Madrid’s San Carlos Hospital, Eduardo Lopez Bran, told EFE.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Police Department said it will only investigate the incident if Rock files a complaint.
After the award ceremony ended, the Academy released a statement on Twitter saying: “The Academy does not condone violence of any form. Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Awards winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.”