Will Smith appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and reflected on the “horrific night” he slapped Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards, citing a “rage that had been bottled for a really long time.”
During the ceremony, Rock joked that Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith looked like “G.I. Jane 2,” an apparent reference to her shaved head. Afterwards Smith took the stage and struck Rock across the face. “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!” he hollered. Moments later he won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in King Richard.
“That was a horrific night, as you can imagine,” Smith recounted to Noah. “There’s many nuances and complexities to it, you know. But at the end of the day, I just – I lost it, you know. And I guess what I would say, you just never know what somebody’s going through,” he said. “I was going through something that night, you know? Not that that justifies my behavior at all.”
“We just got to be nice to each other, man. It’s hard,” he said. “The thing that’s most painful for me, is I took my hard and made it hard for other people. And it’s like I understood the idea where they say hurt people hurt people.”
Noah brought up Smith’s 2021 memoir, Will, in which the actor recalled being terrified of conflict as a child. Smith admitted that his upbringing had influenced the assault. “It was a lot of things, it was the little boy that watched his father beat up his mother,” he replied. “All of that just bubbled up in that moment. That’s not who I want to be.”
“I understand how shocking that was for people, man,” he said. “I was gone. That was a rage that had been bottled for a really long time.”
After dabbing his eyes with a tissue, he asked Noah, “Why you trying to Oprah me?”
Elsewhere in the interview, Smith spoke about his upcoming movie for Apple TV+, Emancipation, which has a theatrical release date of December 2nd and a streaming debut on December 9th. “I promised you I wouldn’t make a slave movie, this is a freedom movie,” he said. Check out the interview below.
After the incident at the 2022 Oscars, Smith apologized to Rock and resigned from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences. He’s been banned from attending the Oscars for 10 years. Revisit our timeline of Smith and Rock’s long and complicated history.