How Hollywood dealt with Will Smith’s slapping of Chris Rock a year later

“If someone commits an act of violence in this theater at any point during the show, you will be awarded the Academy Award for Best Actor and may give a 19-minute speech.”

Kimmel also took aim at Hollywood itself: “If something unpredictable or violent happens during the show, sit there and do absolutely nothing. You might even give the attacker a hug,” referring to the fact that Smith, after attacking Rock, was hugged by some and received a standing ovation when he won the Best Actor Oscar.

Oscars 2023 host Jimmy Kimmel poked fun at Hollywood during his opening monologue.

Oscars 2023 host Jimmy Kimmel poked fun at Hollywood during his opening monologue.Credit:Getty

When Smith stormed onto the stage and slammed Rock last year, the moment was greeted with apprehension and uncertainty. It was certainly the most exciting launch of the Best Documentary Oscar segment in the Academy’s nearly century-old history.

What the TV cameras didn’t catch was Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Francis Ford Coppola standing backstage watching the segment on a monitor. As it happened, De Niro reportedly leaned over to Pacino and, speaking for all of us, said, “What the hell just happened?”

But the Academy took too long to formulate their plan; Silence turned to hesitation. In the end, Smith resigned from the organization and was banned from attending Academy events for 10 years. (He can still be nominated for Oscars, but he can no longer vote for them.)

Academy President Janet Yang addressed the issue at last month’s 2023 nominees’ luncheon.

“What happened on stage was totally unacceptable and the response from our organization was inadequate,” she said. Going forward, Yang added, the academy will act “quickly, compassionately and decisively.”

Janet Yang, Academy President at the 95th Academy Awards.

Janet Yang, Academy President at the 95th Academy Awards.Credit:AP

Like most of the Hollywood establishment, the Academy doesn’t like headlines that it can’t control. #OscarsSoWhite stung, as befits an industry where non-white artists and professionals are still underrepresented at almost every level. But “the slap in the face” hurt and despite the time it remains a sensitive topic.

It stifled media attention to Questlove’s documentary win for summer of the soul, a production with a predominantly black production crew. In fact, it stifled the rest of the broadcast and gave the academy one of its most embarrassing moments ever: an audience of Hollywood’s most powerful applauded a man who had committed an assault on the show’s stage just an hour earlier.


Despite being banned from the Oscars, Smith remains a high-profile A-list actor, especially in a city where scandals run big but forgiveness is often easy.

For much of 2022, Smith has been on a slow journey of reputation repair, but whether it’s working as quickly as he would like is debatable.

In August, he released a video apology that was ill-conceived in hindsight.

“It’s all blurry,” Smith said. “I’ll tell you Chris, I apologize to you. My behavior was unacceptable and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk.”

Rock didn’t properly respond for nearly a year, though he did make a joking reference to Smith’s “hostage video” during a comedy set with Dave Chappelle several weeks after the video’s release.


The video was criticized by the trade journal’s chief media analyst diversity, Andrew Wallenstein, on the insincerity of his tone. It projected a kind of ‘let’s get this over with’ vibe, exactly the vibe an apology should never give off,” he said.

Wallenstein also criticized the video’s scripted question-and-answer format as “an obvious way to advance a range of talking points that prevent a sense of sincerity from coming across.”

Smith made his first red carpet appearance in December when he attended the LA premiere of his new Apple TV+ movie emancipationwhich the tech giant postponed following the damaging headlines of the slap.

The film was Oscar-eligible but didn’t win any nominations. How much of this is due to “the slap” is debatable.

Find out the next TV, streaming series and movies to add to your must-sees. Get The Watchlist delivered to you every Thursday. How Hollywood dealt with Will Smith’s slapping of Chris Rock a year later

Jaclyn Diaz

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