Smith shocked the live audience at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday (27 March) when he strode on stage and hit Rock across the face with an open hand during the ceremony.
The moment came after Rock made a joke about Pinkett Smith, referring to her as “GI Jane” in a reference to her shaved head. Pinkett Smith has been open about her diagnosis of alopecia.
Rock was left stunned after being struck, telling the crowd: “Will Smith just smacked the s*** out of me.” Smith, who had returned to his seat, then shouted: “Keep my wife’s name out your f***ing mouth.”
Moments later, Smith gave a tearful speech, in which he apologised to all except Rock, after winning Best Actor for King Richard. He has since issued an apology to the comedian.
In his apology, the King Richard star said he understood that jokes were part of his life as a public figure, and that “violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive”.
Rock is yet to publicly accept the apology, but it is said by a source, via TMZ , that Rock “had no idea” Pinkett Smith has alopecia.
A source close to Rock has also claimed that the comedian and Smith are yet to speak to one another about the incident as Rock went to a different afterparty.
Shortly after the ceremony ended, it was reported that Rock had declined to press charges. Footage not shown during the Oscars broadcast shows Rock looking dazed and confused in the aftermath of the incident.
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Following the altercation, a joke Rock made about Pinkett Smith at the 2016 Oscars resurfaced online.
He condemned his own actions, adding: “I want to put the focus back on those who deserve attention for their achievements and allow the Academy to get back to the incredible work it does to support creativity and artistry in film.”
Smith’s behaviour has divided opinion in Hollywood and on social media, with a number of celebrities, critics and public figures – including senators and British MPs – offering their thoughts on the incident.