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Oscars network say Chris Rock’s Jada Pinkett Smith joke was off-script

ABC have released a statement after the quip from Rock led to Will Smith invading the stage and slapping him

By Will Richards

Chris Rock presenting at the 2022 Oscars
Chris Rock presenting at the 2022 Oscars. (Photo: YouTube)

A producer for Oscars network ABC has said that Chris Rock’s controversial joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, which led to her husband Will taking to the stage and slapping him, wasn’t in the original approved script.

It comes after Will Smith revealed what fellow nominee Denzel Washington said to him following Smith’s altercation with Chris Rock at the Oscars 2022.

During Sunday night’s (March 27) LA ceremony, comedian Rock took to the stage to present the award for Best Documentary, which was won by ‘Summer Of Soul’. He made a joke about Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss as a result of alopecia, saying he “couldn’t wait” to watch “G.I. Jane 2”.

Will appeared to laugh off the jibe initially, though Jada looked far from impressed. Shortly afterwards, Will walked up to the stage and slapped Rock in the face. Upon returning to his seat, the actor shouted: “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!”

Many have since been debating whether Rock had always planned to make the joke, and ABC producer Rob Mills has now told Variety in a new interview that the joke was an ad-lib.

“You started to realise this is real once Chris, who certainly knows the limits of broadcast standards, said, “Will Smith slapped the s**t out of me”,” Mills said of the situation. “That’s when it became obvious that this was not a joke.”

Discussing criticism the Academy received for allowing Smith to go on and win Best Actor later in the night, Mills said: “You have to remember that you’re putting a live show on. Had this been something that was being pre-taped, we would have stopped down. Things would have been addressed. We would have seen what to do next.

“But here, you have to remember you’ve got a show to do. Obviously, this was something that was unfortunate, but it was not to a degree that you think, “Okay, we need to just stop the entire show”. And the show just kind of went on.”

In the aftermath of the event, Smith has apologised to Rock publicly, saying: “Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behaviour at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jade’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.”

Later in the evening, Smith won the Best Actor statue for his role as Richard Williams in ‘King Richard’, (the film received six nominations total). He approached the stage with a smile, appearing to reference the previous outburst.

During the speech, Smith recalled some words of wisdom that had been imparted to him by Denzel Washington, who was also appeared in the Best Actor category for his performance in last year’s ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’.

“What I loved was, Denzel said to me a few moments ago… he said, ‘At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you’,” Smith explained.

He added: “I want to apologise to the Academy, I want to apologise to all my fellow nominees. Art imitates life; I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams. Love will make you do crazy things… I hope the Academy invites me back.”