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Dame Judi Dench Was At The Oscars During The Chris Rock And Will Smith Slap Incident. She Explains How Everyone Initially Reacted

It may not be as widely discussed as it was in the immediate aftermath, but Chris Rock and Will Smith’s Oscar slap still finds its way into some conversations. Most recently, the subject was raised in an interview with Dame Judi Dench, who experienced the hoopla first hand as a nominee at this year’s chase for the best picture Oscar. Her view on the situation is most interesting, as Dench revealed that she and her fellow attendees were just as confused about what was going on in the moment as audiences watching at home were.

Speaking with The Times (opens in new tab), Dame Judi recalled the infamous situation as it evolved in front of the crowd. One of 2022’s Oscar nominees for her role in Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, her presence allowed her to observe, and thus retell, the following: 

We thought that it was a joke. Everybody did. [Then,] ’Oh, it’s not a joke. It was just endless this year — that was the good bit actually.

Thinking back to that fateful Oscar night, there was a window of time when it felt like Will Smith’s stride up to the stage could have yielded a more comedic moment of live television. Smith and Chris Rock are both well-known comedic talents that can think on their feet, so it’s not like anyone expected violence. It was a fleeting notion, as the world would learn through both Rock getting slapped and Will Smith’s immediate, heated reaction. 

Once the reality set in, comedians and show business personalities offered reactions to just what happened between Will Smith and Chris Rock. Meanwhile, Rock has given details on the slap, while refusing to fully address the situation until he's paid to provide such examination. Considering the point we’re at with the matter and its place in pop culture, it’s almost like looking into another reality when picturing Dame Judi Dench and the Oscar audience processing events in real time.

Though the slap itself may not have been a joke, Chris Rock is certainly getting some laughs out of it all. Friend and tourmate Marlon Wayans admitted to slap jokes being told and prepared backstage at their current gigs, with Wayans claiming at least an hour’s worth of material on his end addressing it. For now, those jokes are being kept behind closed doors, so even Dame Judi Dench will have to wait to see what happens next.

In the meantime, you can rent or buy Belfast, and see the performance that landed Dame Judi her latest nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Or, if you’re interested in revisiting her part in the James Bond legacy, Amazon Prime subscribers can stream all but one of her appearances in the franchise.

Mike Reyes
Mike Reyes

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.