Will Smith slapped Chris Rock’s cheek during the 94th Academy Awards on Sunday night, elevating the broadcast into television event that will leave fresh prints on our hearts and minds for months to come. What has transpired in the past 36 hours since the slap? Great question. Please read our previous installment of Slap Updates for context, as I’ll be picking up where my colleague Olivia left off. Here’s a rundown:
SLAP UPDATE 1: PUCK (LIKE THE MISCHIEVOUS SPRITE)
Matthew Belloni of Puck News dedicated his morning newsletter to the slap. He was sitting in “Row F, seat 58, on the left side of the Mezzanine, in the Dolby Theater” that night and got a nosebleed view. Among other things, he spied Serena Williams laughing at the slap and Venus Williams not laughing at the slap, while Jake Gyllenaal and Kevin Costner “just appeared shocked.” The crux of Belloni’s blog was about why Smith was not removed from his seat post-slap. Three sources told him that there was a “serious debate” over whether to do so:
It’s such a complex issue, and there were many voices. Academy leaders, for instance, were sensitive about the optics of attempting to escort out perhaps its most prominent Black member. Wasson had a voice, so did ABC. (Disney C.E.O. Bob Chapek was in the audience but not involved.) Some reps were there backstage, some weren’t, complicating matters. I gotta believe they all also knew his speech would be a classic Oscars moment, and they were all so deaperat [sic]. Ultimately, nobody did anything (the finger-pointing today between the Academy people and Packer has been epic, and reminiscent of the Moonlight/La La Land aftermath).
Will Packer, as perhaps you know, is a film producer who also produced the Oscars, which is television. Apparently, the skills do not translate. According to Belloni, Packer had a fraught run pre-slap: “There were many heated arguments between Packer, his handpicked producer Shayla Cowan, and both the Academy and co-host Amy Schumer.” Post-slap and post-Oscars, he “took off for the parties.” Rock on.
SLAP UPDATE 2: MOTHER SMITH
Will Smith’s mother, Carolyn Smith, stayed home on her son’s big night to make a meeting with her knitting group, which is extremely charming. She did watch the Oscars on TV, like pretty much everyone else (viewership was up from last year, resulting in only the second-lowest ever ratings for the telecast — cheers!). She told ABC 6 that she woke up on Oscar Sunday and fired off a text to the family group chat: “I started out saying, 'Good morning, we've got to say good luck to Uncle Will.” A few hours, comedy bits, and musical numbers later, Mrs. Smith was “surprised” by the slap. She had never seen her son “go off.”
Nevertheless, she was “proud of him being him.” When Will won an Oscar minutes after the slap, Carolyn beamed with motherly pride. “I know how he works, how hard he works,” she said. “I've been waiting and waiting and waiting. When I heard the name, I was just, 'Yes!'"
SLAP UPDATE 3: KING RICHARD
Will won his Oscar for playing Richard Williams, father of the Williams sisters, in King Richard, and the Williams family featured heavily in Smith’s tearful acceptance speech that doubled as an explanation and occasional apology for his behavior. “I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams,” Smith said. “But love will make you do crazy things.”
Unfortunately, Williams himself disagreed. Through his son, Chavoita LeSane, Williams told NBC News that the family does not “condone anyone hitting anyone else unless it’s in self defense.”
SLAP UPDATE 4: THE SLAP WAS A SLAP SEQUEL
The slap was not Smith’s first awards-show-related slap. According to the New York Post, Smith slapped “Ukrainian jokester” Vitalii Sediuk, on the Moscow red carpet for “Men in Black III.” Sediuk was posing as a reporter, when he tried to smooch Smith on both cheeks. Smith reacted by shoving the comedian, asking “What the hell is your problem, man?” and slapping him backhanded in the kisser. One could forgive Smith for thinking round two would be well-received, because slap one scored him “10 urgent messages from Jay-Z.” When Smith called him back, Jay reportedly said:
I just saw the video of you slapping the dude in Russia. I just want you to know you’ll never make a better piece of entertainment. It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen…Me and Bey, we got a show tonight, and we’re thinking about canceling it and just staying in and watching you slap this dude.
That’s paraphrased by the Post from an interview Smith gave to the Rap Radar podcast, but I buy it. (Sediuk has apparently gotten arrested and been served restraining orders for similar celebrity-related incidents in the past. He has tried to stick his face in Leo DiCaprio’s crotch, crawl under America Ferrara’s dress, and hit Brad Pitt at the premiere of “Maleficent.” Pitt filed a restraining order against him.)
As if that wasn’t enough, the sleuths at TMZ tracked down a video of Will Smith teaching an adorable kid how to fake a slap at a press junket for King Richard back in November. Apparently the little guy was named Chris — ”yes, that wasn’t lost on us,” says TMZ. We may be losing the thread.
SLAP UPDATE 5: SMITH IS SORRY
Smith apologized for slapping Chris Rock. In an Instagram post on Monday, he wrote that the slap was “unacceptable and inexcusable.” Here’s the full text:
Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. 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. 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 would also like to apologize to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world. I would like to apologize to the Williams Family and my King Richard Family. I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us. I am a work in progress. Sincerely, Will
SLAP UPDATE 6: THE MOMENT YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR
When will Jimmy Kimmel weigh in on the slap? Everyone’s been asking. The answer was last night. The former Man Show host regaled his audience with some fresh material, like calling the slap a “Hitch slap” and comparing it to “the Hollywood version of your drunk uncle starting a fight, ruining the wedding, and then standing up and giving a long toast to the bride and groom.” In one “stunning moment,” Kimmel said, “the night went from #oscarssowhat to #oscarssowhaaaat?!?!” That’s too bad, since apparently the Kimmel writers had already “written about a page and a half of cleavage jokes and those won’t be used.” If any of them are reading this, please feel free to send those to me directly.
SLAP UPDATE 7: FALSE PAD
In a way, this was Hollywood’s 9/11, so a certain level of conspiratorial thinking was inevitable. To that end, a Twitter account called @viralclipsss observed that “in 8k quality images you can see a pad on chris rocks cheek.”
Unfortunately, if you look at basically any other photo, there is clearly not a face pad. We’ll be keeping an eye on the folks over at @viralclipsss regardless. Independent media is so important.
SLAP UPDATE 8: ALEC BALDWIN SHOOTS OFF TWEET
Alec Baldwin, husband to Spanish-speaker Hilaria Baldwin and Madagascar co-star of both Chris Rock and Jada Pinkett Smith, has given his two cents on the slap, calling the Academy Awards broadcast “the Jerry Springer show.” Baldwin’s analogy came in a tweet, which he reposted to his Instagram, @alecbaldwininsta.
I am not reading much about how, or even if, the producers attended to Chris. But I love you, @chrisrock . And I’m sorry the Oscars turned into the Jerry Springer show.
I’m not a three-time Emmy award winner like Alec, but I think if the Oscars featured segments like “A Man Marries A Horse” and “I’m Happy I Cut Off My Legs” they would probably do better numbers.
SLAP UPDATE 9: THE PINK TABLE
Jada Pinkett Smith speaks: