The actor won for his portrayal of Serena and Venus Williams‘ father Richard Williams in the 2021 film King Richard. After thanking the cast and crew of the film, the actor offered an apology following an altercation with Chris Rock earlier in the broadcast.
“Denzel [Washington] said to me, ‘At your highest moment, be careful — that’s when devil comes for you.’ It’s like I want to be a vessel for love. I want to say thank you to Venus and Serena and thank you to the total Williams family for entrusting me with their story,” Will said through tears. “I want to apologize to the academy, I want to apologize to my fellow nominees.”
Before walking on stage to accept his award, the Fresh Prince of Bel Air alum made headlines minutes prior when he smacked Chris following a joke about Will’s wife,. The Grown Ups actor joked about the actress making a G.I Jane 2, an apparent shot at her alopecia diagnosis, which she revealed publicly in 2018. of the moment, that has since gone viral on Twitter, Will walked on stage and struck the comedian.
“Will Smith just smacked the s–t out of me,” The Longest Yard star told the crowd. When Will got back to his seat, he could be heard yelling, “Keep my wife’s name out your f–king mouth.”
Their face-to-face came years after Chris made a separate joke about Jada while hosting the Oscars in 2016. At the time, he said, “Jada Pinkett Smith boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties — I wasn’t invited!” Following the show, Jada addressed the incident, telling photographers in 2016 that “it comes with the territory, but we gotta keep it moving.”
Amid his acceptance speech, Will compared himself to the character he played in King Richard, whom he called, “a fierce defender of his family.” He added, “This is a beautiful moment and I’m not, I’m not crying for winning an award, it’s not about winning an award for me, it’s about being able to shine a light on all of the people.”
He concluded, “Art imitates life, I look just like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things.”
“We don’t have any details about the incident. As soon as we do, we will make them available to the public,” an LAPD spokesperson told Variety of the incident.