As if the Hollywood gods knew we were overdue for a scandal on live television, all of the regular expected awkwardness at the 2022 Academy Awards was eclipsed by Will Smith slapping Chris Rock across the face for the entire world to see, after the latter made a joke at Jada Pinkett Smith‘s expense.
But a little violence didn’t stop the Academy from giving Smith the Best Actor Award for his role in King Richard, where he plays Richard Williams, father and coach of tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams. “Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” Smith said during his speech, holding back tears — almost as if to give Rock an ever-so-subtle fuck you.
But being two comedy legends of the ’90s, Rock and Smith’s relationship goes way back, as both friends and on-screen collaborators. And after Smith married Pinkett Smith in 1997, the trio had been seen on a number of public outings together like the old pals they were.
So, what happened? While it’s not clear exactly when things started going off the rails, Smith and Rock’s relationship hasn’t always been a smooth-sailing one. Below, see the full timeline of interactions between the two.
1995: Rock Visits Bel-Air
Notably, Smith and Rock appeared together in Spike Jonze’s 1999 mockumentary Torrance Rises. But even a few years before that, Rock made a guest appearance on an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, pulling double-duty in a Season 6 episode portraying famous actor Maurice Perry and Maurice’s sister Jasmine. While the cross-dressing bit hasn’t aged well, the two men sure seemed comfortable enough to share a few compromising scenes together.
1997: Laughing it Off
Before officially tacking the “Smith” on to her name, Pinkett Smith visited Rock’s HBO talk show The Chris Rock Show as part of the press junket surrounding Scream 2. Considering how comfortable she looks bouncing jokes off of Rock and cackling at his remarks in return, it appears that at this point, things were going swimmingly between the two of them.
February 28th, 2016: Jokes by Invitation Only
At the height of the #OscarsSoWhite movement, the Smiths were among the industry elites who boycotted the 2016 awards show over a lack of diversity among nominees. During his opening monologue as the evening’s host, Rock made a poor-taste joke implying that Pinkett Smith actually wasn’t invited to the show. “Jada says she’s not coming,” Rock said. “Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!”
As if dragging Rihanna into the mix wasn’t repugnant enough, Rock then proceeded to diss Smith: “Jada’s mad her man Will was not nominated for Concussion. I get it,” Rock said. “It’s also not fair that Will was paid $20 million for Wild Wild West.” Pinkett Smith took the remarks gracefully, but it clearly contributed to some bad blood between Smith and Rock.