The day after slapping presenter Chris Rock on stage at the Academy Awards, actor Will Smith has issued an apology to the comedian, saying he was “out of line”.
The fallout from Sunday’s Oscars continued on Monday as the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences condemned Smith’s onstage assault and promised to launch an inquiry.
Later in the day, Smith gave a stronger apology than he did during his best-actor acceptance speech, which notably did not include a mention of Rock.
“Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive,” Smith said.
“My behaviour 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 apologise 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.”
Smith added apologies to the film academy, producers of the telecast, attendees, viewers and the Williams family.
Smith was honoured with the best actor Oscar for his role as Richard Williams, father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena.
“I am a work in progress,” Smith said.
Earlier on Monday, the film academy had released a statement condeming Smith’s actions.
“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,” they said.
Smith shocked the Dolby Theatre crowd and viewers at home when he took to the stage during Rock’s presentation, after the comedian made a joke about the hair of Jada Pinkett Smith, the actor’s wife.
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 f***ing mouth.”
Within an hour, Smith was back on stage to collect the best actor award. During his acceptance speech, he apologised to the academy and his fellow nominees.
The Los Angeles Police Department said it was aware of the incident but not pursuing an investigation because the person involved declined to file a police report.
Whoopi Goldberg, a member of the Academy’s board of governors, said on 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, calling the incident “unacceptable” and said “violence or physical abuse in the workplace is never acceptable”.
A sense of disbelief hung in the air at the Dolby Theatre after Smith’s assault.
Not only was it a hard-to-fathom break with decorum on live national television – an incident so dramatic, even movie-like, that many initially assumed it was a staged bit – it seemed wildly out of character for one of Hollywood’s most relentlessly upbeat stars.
Some questioned whether Smith should have been allowed to continue to sit front and centre 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-in for the award.
“I know we’re all still processing, but the way casual violence was normalised 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.
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