Will Smith Wins Best Actor for King Richard

Will Smith had his biggest—and most awkward—night last Sunday at the 2022 Academy Awards. On the one hand, he won his first Oscar for his performance in King Richard. On the other hand, that is not why he is breaking the news. What is behind the slap everyone is talking about?

Staged or not, Will Smith’s infamous slap is what everybody is picking up from Cinema’s most important night of the year. Minutes later he received his first Best Actor Academy Award yet for his portrayal of Richard Williams, Venus, and Serena William’s father, in the movie King Richard.

The dramatic confrontation came about when comedian, actor, and producer, Cris Rock, who was presenting the Best Documentary Award, made a joke about Jada Pinkett-Smith’s hair. It turns out that Jada suffers from alopecia, making her decision to attend the ceremony with a shaved head, not a fashion choice. 

So when Rock jokingly said, ​​”Jada, I love you. ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it,” in reference to her absence of hair, Will Smith and his wife both seemed visibly uncomfortable. Seconds later the actor walked up to the stage and smacked Rock, leaving both the presenter and the audience startled. Rock still was fast to recover and he cracked, “That was the greatest night in the history of television.” 

And it probably was. Even though the most important moment in Will Smith’s career would be coming minutes after when he received the golden statuette for his performance in the movie King Richard. Smith was nominated alongside Andrew Garfield, Benedict Cumberbatch, Javier Bardem, and Denzel Washington for the Best Actor award.  

King Richard is a biographical drama that tells the story of Venus and Serena William’s father and coach, Richard Williams. This is the first movie to award Will Smith an Oscar after being nominated twice in 2002 and 2007 for his performances in “Ali” and “In Pursuit of Happiness”. 

During his acceptance speech, Will Smith was visibly moved as he explained, “Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family. In this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world,” he said, referencing not just his movie role but his altercate with Cris Rock. 

Fans’ and celebrities’ opinions of the incident were divided. While the Academy Awards official Twitter account posted a message stating that they do not condone violence of any form, many celebrities have also shared the sentiment. The Smith family, however, seems supportive of Will’s reaction saying that it was “an act of love”.  


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