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Why did Will Smith slap Chris Rock at the Oscars last year?

Last year’s Oscars will be remembered as perhaps the most dramatic in history, thanks, of course, to “The Slap Heard Around the World”.

During the 94th Academy Awards on 27 March 2022, Will Smith strode onto the stage and struck presenter Chris Rock in the face.

Follow The Independent’s live coverage of the 2023 Oscars here.

Minutes later, Smith went on to win the prize for Best Actor for his role in the sports drama, King Richard.

The controversial moment resulted in Smith being banned from Academy events for 10 years and saw the Oscars put in place new crisis measures for this year’s ceremony.

While no one could possibly forget what happened that night, you might have forgotten the circumstances that led to the slap and the ensuing aftermath.

Here’s how it played out.

Why did Will Smith slap Chris Rock?

Will Smith hits Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars ceremony (REUTERS)
Will Smith hits Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars ceremony (REUTERS)

Rock was announcing the nominees for Best Documentary Feature when he began a short monologue. It was then that the comedian made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, comparing her to Demi Moore in the 1997 film, GI Jane.

“Jada, I love you. GI Jane 2, can't wait to see it, all right?” Rock said. While many audience members laughed, Pinkett Smith appeared unamused.

The Matrix star has spoken about living with alopecia in the past, which resulted in her decision to shave her head.

Despite appearing to laugh at first, Smith then walked on stage and slapped Rock hard across the face before turning around and returning to his seat.

The crowd were initially stunned as it was unclear whether the moment had been prearranged.

“Wow... Will Smith just smacked the s**t out of me,” Rock eventually exclaimed.

It was soon clear that the incident was not a bit, however, as Smith yelled the infamous words: “Keep my wife’s name out your f***ing mouth.”

What happened after the slap?

Will Smith attending the Vanity Fair Oscar Party (PA Archive)
Will Smith attending the Vanity Fair Oscar Party (PA Archive)

Less than 40 minutes after the slap, Will Smith took to the stage again, this time to accept one of the top awards of the night. Smith won Best Actor for his role as Richard Williams, father of tennis stars Venus and Serena, in Reinaldo Marcus Green’s King Richard.

In his deeply emotional acceptance speech, Smith focused on the similarities between himself and his character.

“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,” he said.

Later that night, Smith was filmed “holding court” dancing to his own music at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party.

It later transpired that Rock had refused to press battery charges against the actor.

Five days after the slap, Smith sent an official resignation to the Academy, stripping him of his membership to the Oscars awards body.

The Academy then fast-tracked a meeting with the board of governors to decide Smith’s fate, deciding to ban the actor from the Oscars and any related Academy events for the next 10 years.

In July last year, Smith issued an apology video to Rock, which the comedian did not respond to.

Rock finally addressed the incident head-on for the first time this week in his live comedy special for Netflix, Chris Rock: Selective Outrage.

Find out how to watch the Oscars from home and when the ceremony starts here.