If you’re watching the 2023 Oscars and notice a notable absence and a bunch of jokes about punches, you might be wondering: is Will Smith banned from the Oscars?
Will and Chris’s incident occurred live at the 94th Annual Academy Awards Ceremony on March 27, 2022, when the Saturday Night Live alum made a distasteful joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. “Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see ya,” Rock said in part, making a comparison between Jada’s shaved head and actress Demi Moore’s buzz cut in the 1997 movie, G.I. Jane. Jada, for her part, has gone public with her years-long struggle with alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that attacks hair follicles and can result in hair loss and balding. She was visibly upset at Chris’s comment, rolling her eyes from her seat as he defended the joke. Will then stepped on stage to slap the comedian.
Although the live broadcast quickly began to censor the exchange between Will and Chris, uncensored footage that aired internationally revealed what was really said between the actors. “Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me,” Chris said in disbelief. From afar, Will could be heard yelling at the comedian to not speak about Jada. “Keep my wife’s name out of your f—king mouth,” he screamed twice.
So is Will Smith banned from the Oscars? Read more below to find out.
Is Will Smith banned from the Oscars? The Academy decided that Will Smith is now banned from the Oscars for the next ten years. In a meeting on April 8, 2022, the members of the Academy of Motion Pictures determined that the actor cannot attend the ceremony for the next decade after infamously slapping comedian Chris Rock. Every year the Oscars tradition is that the last years winner would present the award for the category. However, Jessica Chastain is presenting the award for Best Actor in 2023.
It has been a tradition for the winners of the previous year to present their awards to their successors for the next year—but it looks like Smith will not have this honor. In an open letter, the Academy announced, “The Board has decided, for a period of 10 years from April 8, 2022, Mr. Smith shall not be permitted to attend any Academy events or programs, in person or virtually, including but not limited to the Academy Awards.”
In the same statement, the Academy apologized to Rock, the rest of the Academy and the public for the moment: “We want to express our deep gratitude to Mr. Rock for maintaining his composure under extraordinary circumstances. We also want to thank our hosts, nominees, presenters and winners for their poise and grace during our telecast.”
Smith had already resigned from the Academy on April 1, 2022, issuing a public statement condemning his own actions: “My actions at the 94th Academy Awards presentation were shocking, painful, and inexcusable. 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,” Smith said at the time. “I betrayed the trust of the Academy. I deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work. I am heartbroken.”
Smith also apologized to Rock directly: “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 wrote in a public apology statement on March 28, 2022. “There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.”
In his apology video that he released in July 2022 titled “It’s been a minute…,” Will revealed that he’s reached out to Chris, who rejected his request to talk because he’s just “not ready” yet. “I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk,” he said in the message towards the Madagascar voice actor. “I’ve reached out to Chris and the message that came back is that he’s not ready to talk, and when he is he will reach out,” Will said. “So I will say to you, Chris, I apologize to you. My behavior was unacceptable, and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk.”
He also confessed that he didn’t realize “how many people” would be hurt by his actions. “I saw an interview that his mother did. That’s one of the things about that moment I didn’t realize, I wasn’t thinking, but how many people got hurt in that moment,” he said. “So I want to apologize to Chris’s mother; I want to apologize to Chris’s family, specifically Tony Rock [Chris’s younger brother]. We had a great relationship. Tony Rock was my man. This is probably irreparable.”
Will ended his video by telling viewers that he’s spent the past three months since the Oscars “replaying” the moment with Chris in his mind. “I spent the last three months replaying and understanding the complexities and nuances of what happened,” he said. “I’m not gonna try to unpack all of that right now but I can say to you, there was no part of me that thought that was the right way to behave in that moment.”
The 95th Academy Awards happened days after Chris Rock released his new Netflix comedy special Selective Outrage where he targetted Will at the end of his set. According to several sources, the King Richard actor did not that well. “Will is embarrassed and hurt by what Chris said about him and his family in his Netflix special. He didn’t watch it, but he had people tell him what Chris said,” a source told ET. “It’s everywhere when you look online and on social media, so Will and Jada have seen comments about it.”
“Will apologized to Chris and would like for Chris to let it go,” the source added. “Will has worked on himself and he is banned by the Oscars for 10 years. He feels like that’s enough and wants Chris to move on, so that he and everyone else can too. Will is also upset that Netflix was a part of this and thinks Chris insulting Jada again is below the belt. He is upset that Netflix gave Chris this platform to share these messages and thinks it’s distasteful.” Though the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actor still has a lot to say since he “felt terrible for so long” about smacking Chris at the Oscars. “He’s tried unsuccessfully to make amends in the best way he could with Chris.
Throughout his set, Chris teased some jokes alluding to the slap by saying “words hurt. Anybody who says that words hurt has never been punched in the face.” He ended his set by calling Will “Suge Smith”, a reference to the currently-incarcerated Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight, who was sentenced to 28 years in prison in 2018 for manslaughter. Rock was taking out his anger over his wife’s “entanglement’ with musician August Alsina which was discussed on her show Red Table Talk in 2020.
For more about Will Smith, read his memoir, Will. The book, which was number one on The New York Times bestseller list, takes readers through Smith’s life, from his childhood in West Philadelphia and early rap career to his rise as one of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars. The autobiography—which Oprah Winfrey described as “the best memoir I’ve ever read”—also explores a side of Smith’s life he’s never told before. “Will is the story of how one person mastered his own emotions, written in a way that can help everyone else do the same,” the publisher’s description of the book reads. “Few of us will know the pressure of performing on the world’s biggest stages for the highest of stakes, but we can all understand that the fuel that works for one stage of our journey might have to be changed if we want to make it all the way home.”
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