Will Smith says “there is no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment” when explaining his decision to slap Chris Rock during the March 2022 Oscars ceremony.
In a new Instagram video, the KingRichard star answers a series of questions about that night, offering up yet another apology to Rock while also discussing the impact it had on Rock’s family; whether he was responding to his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith’s eye roll when he took the stage; the effects of his actions had on the night’s other nominees and winners; and more.
“I was fogged out by that point,” Smith says, explaining why it took so long to offer Rock an apology. “It’s all fuzzy. I’ve reached out to Chris, and the message that came back is that he’s not ready to talk. And when he is, he will reach out.”
Smith goes on to address Rock directly, saying he’s “here whenever you’re ready to talk,” before offering up an apology to Rock’s mother and brother Tony Rock.
“That was one of the things about that moment I just didn’t realize,” Smith reflects. “I wasn’t thinking about how many people got hurt at that moment. So, I want to apologize to Chris’ mother. I want to apologize to Chris’ family — specifically, Tony Rock. We had a great relationship. You know, Tony rock was my man, and this is probably irreparable.”
Smith also answered a question about whether his reaction was in response to his wife’s eye roll following Rock’s joke about her baldness, which many noted may have been a sensitive topic due to her alopecia.
“I made a choice on my own, from my own experiences, from my history with Chris. Jada had nothing to do [with it],” Smith said, before acknowledging the “heat” his wife and kids have taken.
Toward the end of the video, Smith acknowledges how his actions impacted his fellow nominees.
“It really breaks my heart to have stolen and tarnished your moment,” Smith says, addressing Questlove, who took the Oscars stage right after the incident to accept the award for best feature documentary for his project summer of soul. “Sorry isn’t really sufficient.”
He ends the video by taking on what he would say to people who looked up to him before the Oscars incident. Smith calls disappointing people “my central trauma” and notes that he hates “when I let people down.”
“So it hurts. It hurts me psychologically and emotionally to know I didn’t live up to people’s image and impression of me,” he says, adding that he’s “deeply remorseful” but trying to be so “without being ashamed” of himself. “I’m a human and I made a mistake, and I’m trying not to think of myself as a piece of shit.”
“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,” Smith offers as his ending note. “And if you hang on, I promise we’ll be able to be friends again.”
This is the third apology in some form that Smith has offered up since the Oscars 2022 incident, in which the best actor winner took to the Dolby Theater stage and slapped comedian rock after he made an unscripted GI Jane joke about Pinkett Smith’s baldness while presenting the award for best documentary feature.
Smith gave a tear-filled statement the night of while accepting his best actor win for his role as Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena Williams, in KingRichard — though he didn’t mention Rock. He then released a statement to his social media specifically apologizing to Rock while also acknowledging how the joke prompted his behavior.
“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,” he wrote in the post. “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.”
Since then Smith announced he was resigning from the Academy and has been banned from appearing at Academy events for 10 years. He is still, however, eligible for future Oscar nominations and wins, and will retain the Oscar that he won during the 2022 ceremony.
Several of Smith’s upcoming projects are apparently in limbo. Fast and loose, which centers on a crime boss who loses his memory, had previously lost its director ahead of the Oscars incident, but according to sources, was quietly put on the back burner by Netflix. Sony’s bad boy 4also in active development during the Oscars season, which was also paused, a source told The Hollywood Reporters.
Smith is also slated to star in the Antoine Fuqua-directed action-thriller emancipation. Based on a true story, the movie follows an enslaved man who escapes from a Louisiana plantation before heading North to join the Union Army. It’s in postproduction at Apple but currently does not have a release date despite previously being tentatively scheduled for later this year.
Sources at the time described Smith’s performance as another awards-worthy portrayal, but the Oscar incident was thought to have derailed those release plans, with it unclear whether Smith would be welcomed back. This past week, however, online reports suggested that Apple could indeed release the movie at some point in 2022.
Bory’s Kit contributed to this story.