Will Smith won Best Actor for his portrayal of tennis coach Richard Williams on Sunday at the Oscars — moments after the actor unexpectedly smacked Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
When he returned to the stage, Smith spoke for more than five minutes and visibly teared up. Here's his acceptance speech:
Oh man. Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family. In this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world.
Making this film, I got to protect Aunjanue Ellis, who is one of the most strongest, most delicate people I’ve ever met. I got to protect Saniyya [Sidney] and Demi [Singleton], the two actresses that played Venus and Serena [Williams]. I'm being called on in my life to love people, and to protect people, and to be a river to my people.
Now I know that to do what we do, you gotta be able to take abuse, you gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you in this business, you’ve got to be able to have people disrespecting you. You’ve got to smile and pretend like that’s OK. But Richard Williams, and what I loved… Thank you, D. Denzel [Washington] said to me a few minutes ago, he said, "At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you."
It’s like, I want to be a vessel for love. I want to say thank you to Venus and Serena. I just hope they didn't see that on TV. I want to thank you to Venus and Serena and the entire Williams family for trusting me with your story. That’s what I want to do. I want to be an ambassador for that kind of love and care and concern.
I want to apologize to the academy. I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees. This is a beautiful moment, and I'm not, I'm not crying for winning an award. It’s not about winning an award for me, it’s about being able to shine a light on all of the people. Tim and Trevor and Zach and Saniyya and Demi and Aunjanue, and the entire cast and crew of King Richard, and Venus and Serena, the entire Williams family.
Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father just like they said. I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams. Love will make you do crazy things. To my mother, this moment is really complicated for me, but to my mother, she didn't want to come out; she had her knitting friends. She has a knitting crew that she’s in Philly watching with. Being able to love and care for my mother, my family, my wife, I’m taking up too much time.
Thank you for this honor, thank you for moment. I thank you on behalf of Richard and Oracene [Williams], and the entire Williams family. Thank you, I hope the academy invites me back. Thank you.