In a direct appeal to the comedian, the Oscar-winning actor said: “My behavior was unacceptable and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk.”
By Daniel Arkin
In a video posted online Friday, Oscar-winning actor Will Smith — making his most extensive public comments since he slapped Chris Rock at the Academy Awards in March — apologized directly to the comedian and said he was “deeply remorseful” over his behavior.
In a nearly six-minute video uploaded to Instagram and YouTube, Smith said he did not originally apologize to Rock in his Oscars acceptance speech because he was “fogged out.” But he said he has “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.”
“I will say to you, Chris, I apologize to you. My behavior was unacceptable and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk,” Smith said.
He then extended his apologies to Rock’s mother, Rose, and his younger brother, Tony.
In an interview with NBC affiliate station WIS of Columbia, South Carolina, in April, Rose Rock appeared to blast Smith, saying in part: “When he slapped Chris, he slapped all of us.”
Tony Rock starred in the 2007 UPN sitcom “All of Us,” which was co-created by Smith. “We had a great relationship,” Smith said in the video. “Tony Rock was my man and this is probably irreparable.”
Smith previously apologized to Rock in a written statement days after the 94th Academy Awards ceremony, saying in part that he was “out of line” and “embarrassed.”
Smith slapped Rock across the face after the comedian made a joke about the actor’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock, presenting the Oscar for best documentary feature, had said he was excited to watch Pinkett Smith in “G.I. Jane 2.”
In 2018, Pinkett Smith revealed she was diagnosed with alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss. Ridley Scott’s action film “G.I. Jane” (1997) starred Demi Moore as a woman who joins the Navy and shaves her head during her military service.
Smith then marched on to the stage at the Dolby Theatre and hit Rock. The sound then cut out on the U.S. broadcast, but Smith appeared to be shouting the words: “Keep my wife’s name out of your f—— mouth!”
The actor later accepted the best actor award for his performance in “King Richard,” a portrait of Serena and Venus Williams’ hard-charging father. “I’ve spent the last three months replaying and understanding the nuances and the complexities of what happened in that moment,” Smith said in the video. “I’m not going to try to unpack all of that right now, but I can say to all of you that there is no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment.
“There is no part of me that thinks that was the optimal way to handle feelings of disrespect or insults,” Smith said.
“I am deeply devoted and committed to putting light and joy into the world,” he later added.
The actor said he was sorry to his family for “the heat that I brought on all of us” following the slap. He said it “really breaks my heart to have tarnished and stolen” the limelight from his fellow Oscar nominees — including the musician and filmmaker Questlove, who won the best documentary Oscar for “Summer of Soul.”
In early April, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced it would bar Smith from attending the Oscars for 10 years because of the slap.
By the time of that announcement, though, Smith had already resigned from the group — a move that prevented the academy from suspending or expelling him.
Smith’s outburst stunned the audience in the Dolby Theatre and around the world and set off a frenzy of conversation on social media that lasted for weeks, inspiring heated debates about toxic masculinity and other hot-button themes.
Rock kept his composure after he was slapped, joking that it was the “greatest night in the history of television.” He declined to press charges, the Los Angeles Police Department said.
The comic has since addressed the incident in a stand-up performance, insisting that he was not a “victim” and quipping: “I don’t go to the hospital for a papercut.”