LOS ANGELES - Actor Will Smith has apologized to Chris Rock on Instagram for slapping him during the Oscars ceremony.
"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.
Smith shocked the Dolby Theatre crowd and viewers at home when he took the stage during Rock’s remarks after the comedian made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, Smith’s wife. Rock said, "Jada, I love you. ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it."
The joke touched a nerve. Pinkett Smith, whose head is shaved, has spoken publicly about her alopecia diagnosis. Smith strode on stage and slapped Rock across the face. Back in his seat, Smith twice shouted for Rock to "get my wife’s name out your (expletive) mouth." His words echoed clearly throughout the Dolby, though broadcaster ABC cut the audio for about 15 seconds. Within an hour, Smith won best actor. During his acceptance speech, Smith apologized to the academy.
After the show Sunday night, the academy posted a statement condemning violence. The Los Angeles Police Department said Sunday it was aware of the incident but not pursuing an investigation because the person involved declined to file a police report.
Earlier Monday, the film academy said: "The Academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night’s show. We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our bylaws, standards of conduct and California law."
The fallout from Smith’s onstage assault continued Monday, as Hollywood and the public continued to wrestle with a moment that stunned the Dolby Theatre crowd and viewers at home, and may have passed all others — even that gold-standard flub, EnvelopeGate — in Academy Awards infamy.
Some academy members, like writer-producer Marshall Herskovitz, called for the academy to take disciplinary action against Smith.
"He disgraced our entire community tonight," wrote Herskovitz on Twitter.
Whoopi Goldberg, a member of the Academy’s board of governors, said Monday on "The View": "We’re not going to take that Oscar from him. There will be consequences, I’m sure."
The Screen Actors Guild also weighed in. The film, television and radio union called the incident "unacceptable" and said "violence or physical abuse in the workplace is never acceptable." SAG said that it had been in contact with the academy and ABC, and that it doesn’t comment on the guild’s own disciplinarian process.
Some questioned whether Smith should have been allowed to continue to sit front and center after smacking Rock. Several stars rushed to counsel and calm Smith, including Denzel Washington, Bradley Cooper and Tyler Perry. But the timing was also awkward because the best actor category was due up soon after, and Smith had long been considered a lock for the award.
"I know we’re all still processing, but the way casual violence was normalized tonight by a collective national audience will have consequences that we can’t even fathom in the moment," wrote Janai Nelson, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, on Twitter.
The joke that provoked Smith was not part of Rock’s routine during the rehearsals leading up to the show, according to two sources close to production who were not authorized to speak publicly.
Rock had joked about Pinkett Smith before. He hosted the 2016 Oscars, when some were boycotting the ceremony over the #OscarsSoWhite group of nominees, including the Smiths. Said Rock: "Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited."
The drama overshadowed some historical wins at an Oscars. The deaf family drama "CODA" became the first film with a largely deaf cast to win best picture. For the first time, a streaming service, Apple TV+, took Hollywood’s top honor, signaling a profound shift in Hollywood and in moviegoing. Ariana DeBose of "West Side Story" became the first Afro-Latina and the first openly LGBTQ actor to win best supporting actress.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.