Will Smith Calls Chris Rock Oscar Slap ‘a Rage That Had Been Bottled for a Really Long Time’

Will Smith described exactly what he was feeling on Oscar night when he slapped Chris Rock on stage. Smith issued a video apology to Rock months after resigning from the Academy, and receiving a 10 year ban from Academy events including the Oscars. However, a Nov. 28 appearance on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah is the first time Smith has opened up about his behavior that night. 

Will Smith raises his Oscar after winning Best Actor for 'King Richard'
Will Smith | Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Smith appeared on The Daily Show to promote his new movie, Emancipation. After discussing the film, Smith answered Noah’s questions about the Oscar slap. 

Will Smith on Chris Rock Oscar slap: ‘I just lost it’ 

Noah referred to Smith’s autobiography, Will, in which he describes growing up in an abusive home. Smith describes many coping mechanisms he developed in the book. Now, Smith acknowledged that he snapped when he heard Rock’s joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head

“At the end of the day, I just lost it,” Smith said on The Daily Show. “I understand how shocking that was for people, man. I was gone, dude. That was a rage that had been bottled for a really long time.”

Smith himself said he thought about his childhood in the moment. 

“It was a lot of things,” Smith said. “It was the little boy that watched his father beat up his mother. All of that just bubbled up in that moment. That’s not who I want to be. That’s now who I want to be, man.”

Nephew asked Will Smith why he slapped Chris Rock

Smith won the Oscar for his performance in King Richard following the slap. He deflected in his acceptance speech and attended Oscar parties to celebrate, but as soon as he came home, Smith’s family drove home what he’d done. 

“My nephew, Dom, is nine and he is the sweetest little boy,” Smith said. “We came home and it’s like he had stayed up late to see his uncle Will. We’re sitting in my kitchen and he’s on my lap and he’s holding the Oscar and he’s just like, ‘Why did you hit that man, Uncle Will?’ Dammit, why you trying to Oprah me? I was like ugh, it was a mess. I don’t want to go too far into it to give people more to misunderstand.”

Preventing the rage from bottling up again 

Smith called Oscar night “a horrific night” and he never denies responsibility for the slap. He hopes that if people see how he could snap, they might have more compassion for any stranger they meet. 

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Chris Rock Admits Will Smith Slap Hurt

You just never know what somebody’s going through. In the audience right now, you’re sitting next to strangers and somebody’s mother died last week. Somebody’s child is sick, somebody just lost their job. somebody just found out their spouse cheated. There’s all these things and they’re strangers and you just don’t know what’s going on with people. I was going through something that night. Not that that justified my behavior at all. You’re asking what did I learn? It’s that we just gotta be nice to each other, man. It’s hard. I guess the thing that was most painful for me is I took my hard and made it hard for other people. I understood the idea when they say hurt people hurt people.

Will Smith, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, 11/28/22

In the months since the Oscars, Smith has worked on extending that compassion to himself as well.

“That was one of the big things for me over this last couple of months that I had to forgive myself for being human,” Smith said. “It’s like trust me, there’s nobody that hates the fact that I’m human more than me.”