Already a member? Log In

Will Smith’s Slap Heard Round the Academy

Chris Rock and Will Smith
Myung Chun /LAT via Getty
Matthew Belloni
March 28, 2022

From my vantage point—in Row F, seat 58, on the left side of the Mezzanine, in the Dolby Theater, at what would soon become the most infamous Oscars of all time—there was no question. The slap was loud. Will Smith’s face was seething. Chris Rock, one of our most polished comedians, seemed genuinely frazzled. This was no bit.

Then the F-bombs flew. One of the most heavily managed, media-savvy movie stars of all time, was suddenly rage-screaming, off-mic but 100 percent clear, even up in my cheap seat: “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.” Twice, with even more fury the second time. Total silence in the crowd. No one could believe what was happening. In my row, at least, there were a couple mouths agape. In the packed Green Room backstage, I’m told by an eyewitness, Serena Williams laughed nervously at the spectacle, while Venus Williams immediately grasped the severity of the situation. Others, like Jake Gyllenhaal and Kevin Costner, just appeared shocked.