In the latest development in the ongoing story of Will Smith’s now infamous altercation with Chris Rock during the 2022 Academy Awards, the newly crowned Oscar-winner has issued a statement announcing his full resignation from the award ceremony’s eponymous organization, admitting that in slapping Rock, he “betrayed the trust of the Academy.”
According to a statement obtained by Variety on April 1st, the King Richard star described his assault of Rock as “shocking, painful and inexcusable,” asserting that “The list of those I have hurt is long and includes Chris, his family, many of my dear friends and loved ones, all those in attendance, and global audiences at home.”
“I betrayed the trust of the Academy,” wrote Smith. “I deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work. I am heartbroken.”
He continued, “I want to put the focus back on those who deserve attention for their achievements and allow the Academy to get back to the incredible work it does to support creativity and artistry in film,” before eventually declaring, “Change takes time and I am committed to doing the work to ensure that I never again allow violence to overtake reason.”
Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences President David Rubin accepted Smith’s resignation, stating, “We have received and accepted Mr. Will Smith’s immediate resignation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. We will continue to move forward with our disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith for violations of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, in advance of our next scheduled board meeting on April 18.”
As seen in the telecast of the night’s event, Smith’s assault of Rock took place over a joke regarding the bald appearance of the actor’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
Taking the stage to present the award for Best Documentary, Rock, as most on-stage personalities do, attempted to ‘work the crowd’ by giving light-hearted ribbings to some of the attendees.
Catching a glimpse of Pinkett Smith, Rock commented on the actress’ bald appearance – a side-effect of her ongoing battle with alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that features hair loss as a side effect – and compared her to Demi Moore’s shaven-head look in the 1997 film G.I. Jane.
“’Jada I love you, ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it,” said Rock.
Realizing the joke failed to land he self-deprecatingly added, ““That was a nice one!”
As Pinkett Smith rolled her eyes in response to Rock’s joke, Smith stood up from his seat, walked up to the stage, and proceeded to deliver a powerful slap to the left side of the comedian’s face.
“Oh wow,” responded Rock. “Will Smith just smacked the s–t out of me.”
Returning to his seat, Smith in turn yelled, “Leave my wife’s name out of your f—ing mouth!”
“Wow, dude, it was a G.I. Jane joke,” explained a shocked Rock in return, drawing another, albeit more aggressive, refrain of “Keep my wife’s name out of your f—ing mouth!” from Smith.
“I’m going to, okay?” replied Rock, still stunned, before appraising, “That was the greatest night in the history of television.”
Later that night, Smith won Best Actor for his performance as Richard Williams, the father of professional tennis champions Serena and Venus Williams, in the biopic King Richard.
“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” the actor began his acceptance speech and seemingly alluding to the altercation. “In this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world.”
“Making this film, I got to protect Aunjanue Ellis, who is one of the most strongest, most delicate people I’ve ever met,” he continued. “I got to protect Sinai and Demi, the two actresses who play Venus and Serena. I’m being called on in my life to love people. And to protect people and to be a river to my people.”
“I know, to do what we do, you got to be able to take abuse,” Smith said, attempting to both hold back and wipe away tears. “You gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business you gotta be able to have people disrespecting you and you gotta smile and you gotta pretend like that’s OK”
“Denzel said to me a few minutes ago, ’At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you,’” he recalled. “I want to be a vessel for love. I want to say ‘thank you’ to Venus and Serena and the entire Williams family for trusting me with your story. I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care.”
Finally turning to address his assault of Rock, Smith told the audience, “I want to apologize to the Academy, I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees. This is a beautiful moment and 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 lot on all the people…and the entire cast and crew of King Richard and Venus and Serena and the entire Williams family.”
“Art imitates life,” he concluded. “I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams! But, love will make you do crazy things.”
Prior to his resignation, Smith offered an apology to the Academy, the show’s viewers, and Rock, writing on Instagram, “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,” he explained. “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,” he continued. “There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.”
Smith added, “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,” he stated.
He concluded, “I am a work in progress.”
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