Academy Awards

Chris Rock's Prickly Oscar Night History With Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith

This isn't the first time this trio has had an Oscar night issue — though at least the last one didn't involve hand-to-face combat

(L-R) Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock

What happened between Will Smith and Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars, if not years in the making, may have a little more history behind it than meets the eye.

Nevertheless, it only took a split second for whatever was simmering to boil over, with Smith slapping Rock in the face Sunday night after the comedian cracked a G.I. Jane joke about Jada Pinkett Smith's shaved head.

If the Academy Awards were trying to prove it could still deliver a viral moment — like, a really viral moment — it succeeded, as first the Internet wondered what had happened and then, once it became more apparent that the man who would be crowned best actor barely a half-hour later had actually smacked a presenter, needed to know everything.

This isn't the first time this trio has had an Oscar night issue — though at least the last one didn't involve hand-to-face combat.

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First of all, Rock goes way back with both, having had a guest spot on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" in 1995 and later, once he was a bigger deal, lending his voice to three "Madagascar" movies along with Pinkett Smith.

"Hey, my kids listen to your kids," Rock told her during a promo interview for "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" in 2012. "[Willow Smith's] '21th Century Girl'? Oh my God!"

Having hosted the Oscars previously in 2005, Rock was tapped to do the honors again in 2016 — a dicey year to be master of ceremonies due to the #OscarsSoWhite criticism stemming from a dearth of nominees of color despite there having been plenty of performers, technicians and craftspeople to choose from.

Into this tinderbox stepped Rock, who pulled no punches at the academy, but also made sure to poke fun at the people who had announced they would be boycotting the ceremony that year.

Pinkett Smith was one of them.

See the Winners of the 2022 Oscars

And even though Rock once in 2009 said there were "no Will Smith jokes," a testament to the fact that the movie star was absolutely killing it at life, apparently there were Will Smith's wife jokes.

"What happened this year? People went nuts. Spike [Lee] got mad. Jada went mad. Will went mad. Everyone went mad," the host exclaimed at the 2016 show. "Jada said she's not coming. I was like, 'Isn't she on a TV show?' Jada's gonna boycott the Oscars? Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna's panties. I wasn't invited."

Rock continued, "Her man Will was not nominated for 'Concussion.' I get it. You get mad. It's not fair that Will was this good and didn't get nominated. You're right. It's also not fair that Will was paid $20 million for 'Wild Wild West.'"

OK, he did rustle up a Smith joke.

When paparazzi caught up with Smith the next day in New York, he just flashed a wide grin and a peace sign in response to any and all questions about Rock's jab.

That following week, X17 checked in with Pinkett Smith for her reaction, and she said, "Hey look, it comes with the territory but we gotta keep it moving. We gotta keep it moving. We gotta keep it moving."

Trying to keep everyone's eye on the more serious ball in play, she added, "There's a lot of stuff we gotta handle, a lot of stuff in our world right now. We gotta keep it moving."

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Really, who would've thought there'd be bad blood from that?

Will Smith confronted actor and comedian Chris Rock on stage after comedian made a joke about Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith, at the 94th Annual Academy Awards.

But last year Pinkett Smith opened up on "Red Table Talk" about being diagnosed with alopecia, an autoimmune disorder, and her decision to shave her head and embrace the baldness.

"Now at this point, I can only laugh," she said on her Facebook Watch talk show.

Other people laughing might have been too much for Smith to handle.

He was smiling literally seconds beforehand as Rock joked about how Javier Bardem wouldn't want to win on a night his wife, Penélope Cruz, lost, so if that was the case he'd be praying for Smith to win.

But when Rock then made his not particularly creative joke about Pinkett Smith's shaved head, and she looked extremely unamused. Seeing her stare of death, Rock quipped, "That was a nice one, okay?"

And then in the blink of an eye, Smith was approaching Rock — who was on stage to present best documentary — and slapped him.

At first, it seemed as if that had to be fake, but witnesses have made it clear that the tension in the room was so thick you needed a steak knife.

"Will Smith just smacked the s— out of me," Rock said, according to

Meanwhile, the sound had cut out for most TV audiences (not in Australia, though), so Smith, once again in his seat, could only be seen yelling in the direction of the stage. You could just make out "my wife."

It turned out that he shouted, according to screen captures, "Keep my wife's name out of your f—— mouth!"

Rock reportedly replied, "Wow, dude. It was a G.I. Jane joke."

Rock, visibly flustered, then managed, "That was the greatest night in the history of television, OK!"

Sean "Diddy" Combs, up to introduce a 50th anniversary celebration of "The Godfather," said, "I did not know that this year was gonna be the most exciting Oscars ever. Will and Chris, we're gonna solve that like family at the Gold party." The Smiths smiled. "But right now we're moving on with love."

Of course that wasn't the end of it, with everyone from evening co-host Amy Schumer — "Did I miss anything? There's like a different vibe in here..." — to best actress presenter Anthony Hopkins ("Will Smith said it all") mentioning it in some way.

As far as a resolution, though, for now Smith's emotional acceptance speech is just the latest bullet point in this seemingly friendly acquaintanceship that always seems to sour on Oscar night.

E! News has reached out to reps for Will and Jada, Smith and the academy for comment.

The academy did post on Twitter after the show had ended that "The Academy does not condone violence of any form." Los Angeles police also said that Rock declined Sunday night to press charges.

For full coverage of the 2022 Academy Awards, click here.

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