Will Smith effectively broke the internet on Sunday night (March 27) when he punched Chris Rock during the 94th Annual Academy Awards for making a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett’s hair. Just minutes later, he won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for King Richard in which he portrays the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams.
Ironically, Richard Williams earned a reputation for being a “fierce defender” of his family, as Smith put it during his acceptance speech. He was then forced to address the elephant in the room — punching Chris Rock. As he took the microphone, Smith also described himself as 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 with tears welling up in his eyes. “Making this film, I got to protect Aunjanue Ellis who is one of the most strongest, most delicate people I’ve ever met. I got to protect Saniyya [Sidney] and Demi [Singleton], the two actresses who played Venus and Serena. I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people. And to be a river to my people.
“And I know to do what we do, you gotta be able to take abuse, you gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you gotta have people disrespecting you and you gotta smile and you gotta pretend that it’s ok.”
Will Smith then spotted Denzel Washington in the audience and revealed The Equalizer actor had just told him, “At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you.”
He continued, “It’s like I wanna be a vessel for love. I wanna say thank you to Venus and Serena. I want to say thank you to the entire Williams family for entrusting me with your story. I wanna be an ambassador of that kind of love and that care and concern.
“I want to apologize to the Academy, I wanna apologize to all my fellow nominees. This is a beautiful moment and I’m not crying for winning an award. It’s not about winning an award for me. It’s about being able to shine a light on all of the people … art imitates life. I look like the crazy father. Love will make you do crazy things.”
He ended with, “To my mother, a lot of this moment is really complicated for me. To my mother … she has a knitting crew in Philly she’s watching with. Being able to love and care for my mother, my family, my wife, thank you for this honor. Thank you for this moment … I hope the Academy invites me back.”