Will Smith apologizes for slapping Chris Rock: ‘My behavior was unacceptable’

Four months after the assault at the Oscar gala, the actor posted a video on Instagram in which he asked for the comedian’s forgiveness

Will Smith arrives at the 2022 Academy Awards gala in Los Angeles.Photo: ANGELA WEISS (AFP)

Four months after the 2022 Academy Awards ceremony, Will Smith spoke out about slapping comedian Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife Jada Smith’s alopecia. “Chris, I apologize to you. My behavior was unacceptable and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk,” the star said in a video he posted on his Instagram and YouTube accounts. The actor answered several questions as he looked directly at the camera. Smith explained why he did not apologize when he came out to give his acceptance speech for the best actor award only a few minutes after the slap. “I was fogged out by that point. It’s all fuzzy,” he explained.

The incident for which Will Smith apologized took place on March 28 at the Oscar gala. Comedian Chris Rock made a joke about the alopecia of Jada Pinkett Smith, the actor’s wife. Will Smith then got up from his seat, and to the astonishment of the audience, who at first did not know whether Smith was doing a bit as part of the show, went on stage and slapped Rock. As Smith returned to his seat, he yelled at Rock to “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.” A few minutes later, Smith won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in King Richard; he did not mention the incident that had occurred just before. The moment went viral and received more commentary than anything else from that night. Because of his aggression, the Hollywood Academy decided to ban Will Smith from all of its events, including the Oscars, for 10 years.

Smith, who claims that he gave the matter a lot of thought over the past few months, has also apologized to Rock’s mother: " I saw an interview that Chris’s mother did, and that was one of the things about that moment. I just didn’t realize—I wasn’t thinking about how many people got hurt in that moment. So, I want to apologize to Chris’s mother, I want to apologize to Chris’s family, specifically Tony Rock. We had a great relationship. Tony Rock was my man and this is probably irreparable.”

“I spent the last three months replaying and understanding the nuances and the complexities of what happened in that moment,” the Men in Black star continued. “There is no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment. There’s no part of me that thinks that’s the optimal way to handle a feeling of disrespect or insults.”

Smith also clarified that his wife did not ask him to hit Rock. “I made the decision for myself, from my own experiences, from my history with Chris. Jada had nothing to do with it,” he said in the video. The actor then apologized to his family for all the media attention the slap caused. Smith also expressed contrition to his fellow Academy Award nominees: “This is a community. It’s like I won because you voted for me,” said Smith. “And it really breaks my heart to have stolen and tarnished your moment.”

Asked what he had to say to the people who admired him before he slapped Rock and were disappointed by his behavior, Smith admitted that “disappointing people is my central trauma. I hate when I let people down. I am deeply remorseful. And I’m trying to be remorseful without being ashamed of myself. I’m human and I made a mistake. I’m trying not to think of myself as a piece of shit,” he said in the last part of the video. “I would say to those people, I know it was confusing, I know it was shocking, but I promise you I am deeply devoted and committed to putting light and love and joy into the world, and if you hang on I promise we’ll be able to be friends again,” Smith concluded.

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