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On Hollywood’s biggest night of the year, Smith hit the comedian and Oscars presenter. It wasn’t the first time the stars were at odds.
When Rock hosted the Academy Awards in 2016, he devoted a portion of his monologue to Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith. At the time, “Saturday Night Live” alum poked fun at the actress’ plans to boycott the ceremony due to the lack of diversity among the nominees.
“Jada went mad… Jada said she’s not coming,” Rock said during his opening monologue. “Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited.”
The comic then set his sights on Smith, who missed out on an acting nomination that year for “Concussion.”
“It’s not fair that Will was this good and didn’t get nominated,” Rock said. “It’s also not fair that Will was paid $20 million for ‘Wild Wild West.’”
At the time, Pinkett Smith seemed to take the jokes in stride.
“It comes with the territory, sweetheart,” she told X17 a week after the Oscars. “Hey, look, it comes with the territory, but we gotta keep it moving. We gotta keep it moving. We gotta keep it moving. There’s a lot of stuff we gotta handle, a lot of stuff in our world right now. We gotta keep it moving.”
When Smith was asked about Rock’s jokes while filming in New York, he simply smiled and gave a peace sign as his response.
And one tweet may have predicted what was to come.
“Will Smith has to punch Chris Rock in the face …. He has no choice,” one user tweeted.
Fast-forward to 2022, the gloves were off when Rock poked fun at Pinkett Smith’s head.
“Jada, I love you. ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it, all right?” Rock joked, referring to the 1997 film “G.I. Jane,” starring Demi Moore, who shaved her head to portray a fictional Navy Seal candidate.
Pinkett Smith, 50, revealed in 2018 that she was diagnosed with alopecia. The actress has often discussed the challenges of hair loss on Instagram and other social media platforms.
The joke missed, badly.
Smith, 53, walked onto the stage from his front-row seat and took a swing at Rock with an open palm, generating a loud smack. Smith walked back to his seat and shouted for Rock to leave Pinkett Smith alone. Rock replied that he was just making a “G.I. Jane” joke — and Smith yelled back at him a second time.
Smith shouted at Rock to “keep my wife’s name out of your f—ing mouth,” and the crowd hushed as it became clear this was no act.
The moment shocked the Dolby Theatre audience and viewers at home. At the commercial break, presenter Daniel Kaluuya came up to hug Smith, and Denzel Washington escorted him to the side of the stage. The two talked and hugged and Tyler Perry came over to talk as well.
Smith shared what Washington told him: “At your highest moment, be careful because that’s when the devil comes for you.”
“I’m hoping the Academy invites me back,” said Smith.
Reps for Smith, Pinkett Smith and Rock didn’t immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment. A spokesperson for the Academy also didn’t immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment concerning whether Smith will be invited back to the Oscars.
Smith went on to win his first-ever Academy Award. However, the confrontation overshadowed his milestone accomplishment. He was previously nominated twice for best actor, for his role in “Ali” in 2002 and “The Pursuit of Happyness” in 2007. In those films, he portrayed real-life characters: Boxing legend Muhammad Ali and Chris Garner, a homeless salesman.
This time, Smith won against formidable competition including Andrew Garfield, Javier Bardem, Benedict Cumberbatch and Denzel Washington — who won his first and only best actor Oscar award in 2002 over Smith for “Training Day.”
Two hours after the incident, the Academy issued a statement urging for the focus to be on the winners of the evening.
“The Academy does not condone violence of any form,” the tweet read. “Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Awards winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.