An incredible exchange erupted after Will Smith took exception to a joke made by Chris Rock about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, at the 94th Academy Awards, which had been running well.
Smith got up from his seat near the stage, marched up to Rock, and slapped him when Rock quipped that he was looking forward to a sequel to "G.I. Jane." "Keep my wife's name out of your f****** mouth," Smith said after resuming his seat. When Rock claimed that it was just a "GI Jane" joke when he joked about Jada Pinkett Smith when presenting the Oscars in 2016, Smith repeated the same remark.
"That was the greatest night in television history," Rock added before returning awkwardly to presenting Best Documentary, which went to Questlove's "Summer of Soul (...or When the Revolution Was Not Televised)."
Later in the ceremony, a sad Smith received his first Oscar for Best Actor.
"I understand that in order to do what we do, you must be able to accept abuse." In this business, you have to be able to have people raving about you. You have to be able to put up with people disrespecting you and smile and act as if it's not a big deal," Smith explained.
A few minutes later, rapper Sean Combs, who was on stage to deliver a homage to "The Godfather," attempted to mediate between Smith and Rock by suggesting they settle their issues at an Oscars afterparty. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve that like family at the Gold party,” Combs remarked.
Presenter Daniel Kaluuya approached Smith during the commercial break to hug him, and Denzel Washington walked him to the side of the stage. Tyler Perry walked over to talk with them after they talked and hugged.
As he wrapped up his on-stage remarks, Will Smith stated, “I'm hoping the Academy invites me back".
The show had been operating rather smoothly up until that point. Ariana DeBose was the first Afro-Latina to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and Troy Kotsur was the first deaf male actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.