During his win for Best Actor, Will Smith gave a defiant and apologetic speech that referenced his assault of Chris Rock minutes before and alluded to the memory Richard Williams, the real-life figure he portrayed in the film King Richard.
During the presentation for Best Documentary Feature, Rock made a joke referencing Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett-Smith and her hair loss. Smith proceeded to slap Rock on stage and berated Rock from his seat, allegedly telling the comedian to “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!”
Smith referenced how Williams was “a fierce defender of his family”, alluding to the assault that happens just moments before. Smith also mentioned a piece of advice that Denzel Washington had given him after the assault: “When you’re at your highest, that’s when the devil will come for you.”
Smith made religious references during his speech, made a joke referencing his mother not attending the ceremony to go to her knitting club, and apologised to the Academy for the dust-up. Smith ended his speech by hoping that the Academy would have him back in the future.
“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 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 Zack and Saniyya and Demi and Aunjanue and the entire cast and crew of ‘King Richard,’ Venus and Serena, the entire Williams family. Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams,” Smith said.
At one point, Smith became highly emotional in discussing protecting his family. The screen switched to a generic Oscars screen while also flashing over to Serena and Venus Williams, two of the subjects of King Richard.