Towards the end of an already messy Oscars, Will Smith made things even weirder. After Chris Rock, who was presenting the Best Documentary award (which went to Summer of Soul), made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head, her husband stormed the stage, smacked him across the face, then started yelling angrily at him. It left many confused, especially since most of the sound was bleeped on American television. Then something even more awkward happened: Will Smith won an Oscar.
Less than a half-hour after the shocking incident, which dramatically changed the tone of the show, Smith’s name was called out for the Best Actor trophy, for his stirring turn as the father of Venus and Serena, in King Richard. A still visibly shaken and teary Smith took the stage, and he wasted no time in referencing what just happened.
— Variety (@Variety) March 28, 2022
“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” he said, and people in the audience definitely got the reference. “In this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in his world. Making this film, I got to protect Aunjanue Ellis, who is one of the strongest, most delicate people I’ve ever met. I got to protect Saniyaa [Sidney] and Demi [Singleton], the two actresses who played Venus and Serena. I am being called on in my life to love people and to protect people.”
Smith kept stressing the word “protect” as tears rained down his cheek. “I know that to do what we do, you got to be able to take abuse…In this business, you have people disrespecting you. You got to pretend like it’s okay,” he said. “Love will make you do crazy things.”
He then said that before this, Denzel Washington told him, “At your highest moment be careful, because that’s when the devil comes for you.” But Smith insisted he was a “vessel for love.” He added, “I want to be an ambassador of love and care and concern.” He then apologized to the Academy and to his fellow nominees (though not to Rock). He concluded his long speech by joking, “I hope the Academy invites me back.”
You can watch Smith’s speech in the tweet embedded above.