Will Smith smacks Chris Rock at Oscars after joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith

The Hollywood star later went on to win his first Oscar and apologised to the Academy

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Actor Will Smith smacked presenter Chris Rock in the face with an open hand and shouted a vulgarity at the comedian for making a joke about his wife's appearance at the Oscars ceremony on Sunday.

Minutes later, when accepting the Oscar for best actor for his role in "King Richard," Smith apologised to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and his fellow nominees but not to Rock.

The episode with Rock at first appeared to be a scripted joke but turned serious when Smith shouted out: "Keep my wife's name out of your ******* mouth."

Will Smith hits at Chris Rock as Rock spoke on stage during the 94th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Will Smith hits at Chris Rock as Rock spoke on stage during the 94th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Will Smith (R) hits at Chris Rock as Rock spoke on stage during the 94th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Will Smith (R) hits at Chris Rock as Rock spoke on stage during the 94th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.

The audio from the show, broadcast on a time-delay of a few seconds in the United States, appeared to have been cut from the live transmission for many viewers because of the language.

Rock was roasting some of the nominees and, after mentioning Smith, said of his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, "Jada, I love you. G.I. Jane II, can't wait to see it."

Moments later, Smith walked on stage toward Rock, who had his hands behind his back when Smith threw an open hand at his face that produced an audible smack.

"Oh, wow! Wow! Will Smith just smacked the **** out of me," Rock said as the audience laughed, thinking it was a skit. "Wow, dude. It was a G.I. Jane joke," referencing the 1997 film "G.I. Jane" in which actress Demi Moore shaved her head.

Smith then made what may become one of the most repeated phrases of Oscar history when he said: "Keep my wife's name out of your ******* mouth."

Will Smith accepts the Oscar for Best Actor in "King Richard" at the 94th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Will Smith accepts the Oscar for Best Actor in "King Richard" at the 94th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.

Rock responded: "I'm going to. That's the greatest night in the history of television."

Smith then repeated his phrase, louder and more deliberately.

Jada Pinkett Smith told Billboard in December she has been battling the autoimmune disorder alopecia, which can cause hair loss and balding.

The audience initially thought Smith's indignation was feigned, part of the act. It was only after he returned to his seat and shouted that the audience went silent and audibly gasped. Many people in the mezzanine stood up and craned their heads to try to catch a glimpse.

Keep my wife's name out of your ******* mouth

Will Smith to comedian Chris Rock

Smith later won the Oscar for Best Actor - his first Oscar win - for playing Richard Williams, the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. Upon accepting his award, Smith apologised to the Academy and his fellow nominees but not to Rock.

"Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family," Smith said. And the last thing he said before he took his seat was: "I hope the Academy invites me back."

The Academy later said that it did not “condone violence of any form”.

A tweet on the official Academy account said: “The Academy does not condone violence of any form.

“Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Awards winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.”

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) said no report had yet been filed with the force following the altercation.

“LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards programme,” a spokesperson for the force told the PA news agency.

“The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report.

“If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”