It’s been a little over four months since Will Smith celebrated his Oscar nomination by slapping Chris Rock upside the head in front of the world. With the exception of some unconfirmed reports and brief official statements, we haven’t heard much from the King Richard star. On Friday morning, Smith finally spoke out, posting a video to his official YouTube page just under six minutes long.
As Deadline and others reported, many had expected Will Smith to eventually make a public apology statement about the Oscar slap, though many believed it would be in the form of a high profile interview conducted by Oprah Winfrey or a late-night talk show host. Instead, Smith opted to answer fan questions in a video posted to his own YouTube channel. You can watch that video below. Possibly, Smith chose this so he could control the message rather than risk unexpected questions he wasn’t ready to field.
Will Smith opens by answering a question about why he didn’t apologize for the Oscar slap during his Best Leading Actor acceptance speech. “I was fogged out by that point,” Smith said. “It is all fuzzy.” He said he’s since reached out to Rock and that the comic isn’t ready for the conversation. He apologized to Rock, calling his own behavior “unacceptable.” He also apologized to Rock’s family — in particular his mother Rosalie and his brother Tony. “I saw an interview [Rosalie Rock] did, and that was one of the things I just didn’t realize,” Smith admitted. “I wasn’t thinking, but how many people got hurt in that moment.” Addressing Tony Rock, Smith said, “We had a great relationship. Tony Rock was my man. This is probably irreparable.”
As to why Will Smith did what he did, why the Oscar slap happened at all, the actor avoided specifically addressing what was going on inside him in the moment, saying, “I’m not going to try to unpack all of that right now.” He does deny the notion — something speculated by many — that he did it because he felt pressured to by his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith. “No,” Smith said. “I made a choice on my own, from my own experience, and my history with Chris. Jada had nothing to do with it.” He went on to apologize to his family for “all the heat” they’d experienced because of it.
Will Smith didn’t forget the Oscar nominees and winners whose accomplishments were tarnished by the slap. In particular, he singled out Questlove, whose film Summer of Soul won the Oscar for Best Documentary feature. Smith recalled, “I can still see Questlove’s eyes – it happened on Questlove’s award – and I am sorry isn’t really sufficient.”
Deadline notes that in spite of reports that the Will Smith film was being pushed back a year because of the Oscar slap, Apple TV+ will be releasing Smith’s Emancipation in December. The film is expected to be an Oscar contender and the public and celebrity reaction to Smith’s video may have a lot to do with whether or not audiences are willing to accept it. There has been widespread speculation about the infamous slap crippling if not ending Smith’s career. Stories have bounced back and forth about whether or not fallout from the slap was to blame for reports of either indefinite delays or outright cancellations of projects like Bright 2 and Bad Boys 4. The coming months may very well decide Smith’s future as an actor.