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Will Smith appears to slap Chris Rock following Oscars joke about Jada Pinkett Smith

Chris Rock and Will Smith are seen onstage during the 94th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre following what appeared to be an altercation.
Neilson Barnard
Getty Images
Chris Rock and Will Smith are seen onstage during the 94th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre following what appeared to be an altercation.

Editor's note: This story and an embedded video includes language that some may find offensive.

Sunday night's presentation of best documentary feature was something the Oscars strives to be, indelible and unforgettable. But it achieved that goal by being something the Oscars never wants to be — legitimately disturbing.

Before presenting the Oscar for the category, comedian Chris Rock joked that Jada Pinkett Smith, who has publicly acknowledged dealing with a condition that causes hair loss, might be in the running for "G.I. Jane 2," a howlingly dated reference to the 1997 film starring Demi Moore, about a woman who undergoes special operations military training. (Moore's character shaves her head in the film.)

Pinkett Smith's husband, Will Smith stormed onto the stage and appeared to slap Rock.

He then returned to his seat, and appeared to shout, "Keep my wife's name out of your f***ing mouth."

Viewers in the U.S., however, did not hear Smith's invective, as the Oscar producers cut the sound. Instead, they saw only a visibly shaken Rock staring after Smith.

Social media lit up with conjecture that the heated exchange was a prepared bit, though it did not appear to be. The event cast a long shadow over the rest of the evening, including an emotional acceptance speech from Questlove, who won for his documentary Summer of Soul.

Smith would go on to win his first Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role and address the altercation. He did not mention Rock by name.

"I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees," Smith said. "Love will make you do crazy things."

The altercation can be seen below:

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Glen Weldon is a host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He reviews books, movies, comics and more for the NPR Arts Desk.

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