Well, that was something!
Typically, the Oscars are built to move very smoothly, and to run on a certain assumption that everyone involved will laugh off any barbs thrown at them. (Who could forget the entire population of women in Hollywood being asked to smile their way politely through Seth MacFarlane crooning obnoxiously about their nude scenes a few years back?) Still, there are jabs at you, and then there are jabs at your loved ones.
Will Smith does not appear to have appreciated one particular joke that presenter Chris Rock tossed toward his wife Jada Pinkett Smith during tonight’s broadcast, commenting on her current hair loss by calling her “G.I. Jane 2.” Smith expressed this unhappiness in about the clearest way possible: He walked up on stage and slapped the shit out of Rock. That’s not hyperbole, either; it’s a quote. “Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me,” Rock said in the uncensored immediate aftermath of the incident.
Smith followed it up with a shout from the audience, which was censored on United States TV, but not in other markets: “Take my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!” When Rock protested that it was only a “ a G.I. Jane joke,” Smith wasn’t having it: “Keep my wife’s name out your fucking mouth!”
It was an uncharacteristic burst of anger from Smith—who shortly after was back to his more cheerful persona, laughing happily (for the cameras, anyway) when Sean Diddy Combs made a joke about playing “peacemaker” between the two men. But we’ve watched a lot of awards shows over the years, and we’re pretty damn sure that the unfiltered clip of the moment shows that rarest of things in a venue like this: Actual human emotion. Smith was pissed.
Update: Although Smith didn’t directly address the incident in his deeply emotional Best Actor acceptance speech a few minutes later, almost everything he said seemed to reflect on it. “Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” he opened with, while talking about his desire to “protect” his own family, both on-screen and off. “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people.”
“Love makes you do crazy things,” he noted wryly a minute or so later, as the Academy cameras skittishly flitted on and off his crying face. “I hope the Academy has me back.”