On Sunday, the world looked on in shock as Will Smith walked onto the stage at the Academy Awards and smacked Chris Rock in the face on live TV.
Chris had made a joke about Will’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, having alopecia. Referencing the actor’s bald head, he’d said: “Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2, can't wait to see it.”
Will was initially seen to be laughing at the joke, but Jada — who has spoken openly about how her hair loss has affected her confidence — remained stony-faced as she rolled her eyes.
The camera then cut from the couple, and the next thing that viewers saw was Will making his way over to Chris before striking him in the face.
Chris appeared to be completely stunned by what happened and barely reacted to the physical attack. As Will walked back to his seat, the comic said: “Oh, wow. Wow. Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me.”
Will then shouted: “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” at the star. Chris sounded uncomfortable as he replied: “Wow, dude, it was a G.I. Jane joke.”
Will repeated: “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”
“I’m going to, OK?” Chris awkwardly replied. He then stumbled over his words as he tried to move the show along by announcing the nominees for Best Documentary Feature.
Will was spotted being comforted by Denzel Washington, Tyler Perry, and Bradley Cooper after the altercation, and later in the evening he received a standing ovation from the audience as he won his first Oscar.
During his speech, he broke down in tears while speaking about the importance of protecting your family. But by the time the afterparties rolled around, Will was in much higher spirits and was filmed singing along to his own song and dancing with a swarm of fans while clutching his trophy.
On Monday, Will issued an apology for his behavior, saying that “violence in all its forms is poisonous and destructive.” He added that what he did was “unacceptable and inexcusable” before saying “a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.”
Will then wrote: “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. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.”
Chris has not publicly responded to the apology, nor has he posted on any social media platforms or issued any statements since Sunday’s altercation. However, a source told TMZ that the comic genuinely had no idea that Jada had alopecia and his remark was supposed to be an innocent joke about her hair. They added that Chris "doesn't have a mean bone in his body."
Past interviews that reveal the star’s traumatic past have also resurfaced online in recent days, with Chris previously speaking at length about being bullied and sexually assaulted as a child.
Chris said that he endured “just a horrible existence” and “every day was hell” as he was targeted at his predominantly white school.
Speaking to Howard Stern on Sirius XM back in 2020, Chris said: “I suffer from big ego, low self-esteem. And when I say ‘big ego’ it’s only about telling jokes. If it’s got something to do with my work, I’m the baddest motherfucker alive, but anything else is like I just feel not worthy of anyone’s attention, anyone’s love, any accolades, anything.”
Reflecting on the “childhood trauma” that he believes is responsible for that mindset, Chris went on: “I think I’ve dealt with it because I can write jokes about it, but I never dealt with it. It was just a horrible existence. The closest character I can relate to is Tim Robbins in The Shawshank [Redemption], every day was hell.”
“I was a nigger and I got my fucking ass beat and I got physically fucked up and sometimes some sexual shit happened,” he added. “I wasn’t raped, but rape-ish.”
Chris went on to reveal that he’d recently crossed paths with one of his bullies at work. He explained: “I was doing a movie a couple of years ago, and one of my bullies was working security on the movie — a guy who literally, one day at school, turned me upside down and shook the money out of my pockets.”
“He was kind of ashamed and I gave him just a quick look, like, ‘Hey, man, I hope you’re doing well, take care,’ and I kept it moving. I didn’t like, get him off the set, get him fired!” he said.
“He could have been my friend, he could have been in the trailer with us watching The Godfather. The fact he had to go through the whole day, watch me walk around — I was directing the movie — and watch me be me in all my glory and to be so close to me yet be so motherfucking far, I didn’t have to do anything,” Chris concluded.
And earlier this year, Chris revealed that he once violently retaliated against his bullies, which left him “scared to be angry.”
Speaking on Fly on the Wall With Dana Carvey and David Spade in January, Chris said: “Half of the bullying was because I was just a little guy. Then I got bused to school and the bullying was because I was little guy and I was Black. I was getting double bullied."
"I went home, I put a brick in a book bag — this is like a legendary story in my neighborhood — I swung that shit and smacked the guy in the face with this brick and stomped on him, Joe Pesci–style, to the point that we thought he might die,” he added.
“Long story short, from that day on, as my shrink puts it to me: ‘You have been scared to be angry ever since,’” Chris said. “I was so scared of my anger."
He then said that his therapist warned him that he allows people to walk over him all these years later because of that incident. Chris said: “This guy brought something out in you and you're so scared of that thing coming out of you again that you let the whole world walk all over you. Your friends walk over you, your friends walk over you, your female relationships — everybody just fucks you over."
Chris’s troubled past has struck a chord with some in light of recent events, with people claiming that his experience with bullies explains why he barely reacted to the strike.
Commenting on a resurfaced clip of the Howard Stern interview, one viewer wrote: “So that’s why he shook it off so easily.” Another commented: “Dang dude. I really have been thinking about Chris. Will is over there crying but Chris must be feeling something too. Not only shame but also trauma.”
One more said: “He stayed calm and handled it well because it wasn't his first time he experienced something like that.” Another echoed: “Chris seemed so passive after slap… Trying to make it go away.. Childhood shows why..”
Meanwhile, ticket sales to Chris’s upcoming stand-up tour have soared, with ticket exchange and resale company StubHub saying that it experienced more than 25 times the daily sales on Monday and Tuesday than it had for the past month.