Chris Rock and Will Smith’s drama just entered a new era following Smith’s video apology this past week. The two Hollywood titans clashed at the Oscars earlier this year after Rock made some off-color comments about Smith’s wife, Jada. While Will has remained mostly silent on the matter, Rock has gone on several sold-out tours where he’s addressed the matter in jest a few times without an official explanation of his experience.
During his first stop on the Chris Rock Ego Death World Tour following the Oscar incident, Rock was not interested in talking about his ordeal. Instead, the Spiral actor told the sold-out crowd at the Wilbur Theater in Boston, Massachusetts, that they were going to be disappointed if they came to hear him address Smith. At the time, he simply was “not ready,” Instead, he focused on the set he had been preparing for weeks before the slap.
In the weeks that have followed, Rock picked up some steam and found his voice while doing some shows with Kevin Hart. During their Only Headliners Allowed show in Jersey earlier this month, Rock told the crowd that he was not a victim and that he “shook that s*** off and went to work the next day. I don’t go to the hospital for a papercut.” Elsewhere he referred to Will Smith as “Suge Smith,” comparing Will to the notoriously violent label boss of Death Row Records, Suge Knight.
In follow-up shows, he’s let off the Suge Smith joke again and expressed, “Everybody is trying to be a victim. If Everybody claims to be a victim, then nobody will hear the real victims.” For Will Smith, the last few months have been very different. Will took home an Oscar that evening for his work on King Richard. This win was obviously overshadowed by the attack on Rock. Smith was banned from the Oscars for the next ten years and removed from the Oscar board.
In the initial aftermath, he released a written statement apologizing for his actions that night. It read in part, “My actions at the 94th Academy Awards presentation were shocking, painful, and inexcusable. The list of those I have hurt is long and includes Chris, his family, many of my dear friends and loved ones, all those in attendance, and global audiences at home. I betrayed the trust of the Academy.” Jada issued her own statement via her Talk Show, Red Table Talk. In it, she put the spotlight on alopecia and the many women who struggle with it (you’ll recall Rock’s joke was about her bald head.) She also expressed her hope that Will and Chris would work things out.
As he mentioned in his statement, Will was very clear on the fact that his action affected many people outside of Chris Rock. That included the families of Venus and Serena Williams, whose family film and its subsequent wins were overshadowed by the drama. Director Will Packer also got a lot of flack because he was directing this year’s Oscars and got some heat for how his team chose to handle the situation by not immediately removing Smith from the crowd. Wanda Sykes said she was severely shaken up by everything and needed a lot of people to pull her together and help her get back on stage to continue hosting.
Smith followed up his months of silence with an official video apology this past weekend, where he addressed Chris directly and expressed his hope to sit down and talk. He also apologized directly to several of the people affected by the slap, including Rock’s mother. “That was one of the things about that moment. I just didn’t realize how many people got hurt in that moment. So I want to apologize to Chris’s mother. I want to apologize to Chris’s family.”
Smith explained that he had reached out to Chris Rock and his team but that they did not put him in touch with Rock directly. Instead, they let him know that Chris had no desire to talk at the moment. “I’ve reached out to Chris, and the message that came back is that he’s not ready to talk.” He acknowledges that his behavior was “unacceptable” and tells Chris, “I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk.”