Four months after he cuffed Chris Rock on the Oscars stage, over a throwaway punchline about his wife, Will Smith has published a remorseful YouTube video in which he tries to explain an inexplicable confrontation.
Smith on Friday apologized — again — to Rock and Rock’s family, and specifically, the comedian’s younger brother, Tony Rock, who had lit into Smith in a standup appearance in April one week after the slapping incident. “This is probably irreparable,” Smith says, referring to his friendship with Tony Rock.
“There is no part of me that thinks that is the right way to behave in that moment,” Smith says in hindsight. Smith also apologized in an Instagram post on March 29, and resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences two days later.
In the six-minute video, Smith addresses several points spinning up in the aftermath of the March 27 incident, shortly after which he was awarded Best Actor for his performance in King Richard, a biopic about tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams in which he played their father, Richard Williams.
Smith says his wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith, did not direct him to confront Rock after the comedian made a joke about her hair loss. “After Jada rolled her eyes, did she tell you to do something? No,” Smith says. “I made a choice, on my own, from my own experiences, my history with Chris. Jada had nothing to do with it.”
Smith goes on to apologize to his wife, his family, and the other Academy Award nominees, but also acknowledges that “‘I’m sorry’ really isn’t sufficient.”
“I’m trying to be remorseful without being ashamed of myself,” Smith says later. “I’m human, and I made a mistake, and ... I’m trying not to think of myself as a piece of shit.”
After hitting Rock, Smith, 53, was banned from all Academy functions for the next 10 years. For now, he remains one of Hollywood’s A-list actors and leading figures. In addition to his Oscar for King Richard, Smith was nominated for his roles in 2001’s Ali and 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness. He is also the founder of the production company Overbrook Entertainment, which developed King Richard as well as Netflix’s acclaimed Cobra Kai series.