Will Smith’s son Jaden and Tennis star Serena Williams are among the stars who expressed both shock and support after the Hollywood actor hit Chris Rock on stage at the Oscars.
Smith appeared to take offence at a gag comedian Rock made about wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s short haircut before taking to the stage and striking him in front of the star-studded audience at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
After being named best actor for his performance as the father of Williams and her sister Venus in King Richard, Smith used his acceptance speech to apologise to the Academy and “all my fellow nominees” – but not Rock.
“I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people,” he added.
And That’s How We Do It— Jaden (@jaden) March 28, 2022
Shortly after the incident, Serena Williams shared a video on her Instagram story showing her looking shocked.
In a second clip, the sportswoman admitted she “had to put her drink down”.
Jaden Smith, 23, tweeted: “And That’s How We Do It” after his father’s on-stage altercation.
He later told his followers that his father’s acceptance speech had made him cry.
Rapper 50 Cent shared a photo of the moment on Instagram and wrote: “B!tch don’t you ever play with me. LOL.”
Just saw the Will Smith slap. Anyone have a late night show I can borrow just for tomorrow?— Conan O'Brien (@ConanOBrien) March 28, 2022
American late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien was among those making light of the situation, writing on Twitter: “Just saw the Will Smith slap.
“Anyone have a late night show I can borrow just for tomorrow?”
However, Smith’s actions also attracted criticism from members of the film industry.
The Last Samurai producer Marshall Herskovitz urged the Academy to do more than simply issue a statement in response to the incident.
He said on Twitter: “I call upon the Academy, of which I am a member, to take disciplinary action against Will Smith.
“He disgraced our entire community tonight.”
I call upon the Academy, of which I am a member, to take disciplinary action against Will Smith. He disgraced our entire community tonight.— Marshall Herskovitz (@MHerskovitz) March 28, 2022
Hollywood star Mia Farrow tweeted: “It was just a joke. Jokes are what Chris Rock does.
“Always has been edgy. This was a mild joke for him. And I love GI Jane.”
Referring to words from Smith’s acceptance speech, English actor Cary Elwes said: “The ‘vessels of love’ I have known or admired never acted violently against another human being…”
Violence isn’t ok. Assault is never the answer. Also? This is the 2nd time that Chris has made fun of Jada on the #Oscars stage, & tonight he went after her alopecia. Punching down at someone’s auto-immune disease is wrong. Doing so on purpose is cruel. They both need a breather.— Sophia Bush Hughes (@SophiaBush) March 28, 2022
One Tree Hill star Sophia Bush commented that “violence isn’t OK”.
She added: “Assault is never the answer. Also? This is the 2nd time that Chris has made fun of Jada on the #Oscar stage, & tonight he went after her alopecia.
“Punching down at someone’s auto-immune disease is wrong. Doing so on purpose is cruel. They both need a breather.”
Comedian Kathy Griffin suggested Smith’s actions set a bad precedent for her profession.
She said on Twitter: “Let me tell you something, it’s a very bad practice to walk up on stage and physically assault a Comedian.
“Now we all have to worry about who wants to be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theaters.”