Denzel Washington Opened Up About Will Smith's Oscars Slap Incident After Taking Him Aside During The Event

Will Smith and Denzel Washington
(Image credit: Warner Bros./Apple TV+)

For the past week, much of Hollywood and the general public have been analyzing the situation that occurred between Will Smith and Chris Rock at the Oscars last weekend. Many were surprised when Smith slapped Rock on stage after the comedian made a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. A number of notable celebrities have since chimed in on the situation, each with varying thoughts on the matter. Now, Smith’s longtime friend and mentor, Denzel Washington, is opening up about the incident after taking his colleague aside during the event. 

Denzel Washington and Will Smith found themselves in interesting positions during awards season, as both stars were competing for the various Best Actor prizes. However, the two have remained friendly, with Smith even opening up about the sincere message Washington gave him at the SAG Awards. Given their closeness, it’s no surprise that the King Richard star revealed during his Oscars speech that Washington spoke to him after he slapped Chris Rock. At a leadership summit hosted by bishop T.D. Jakes (via Variety), Washington shared thoughts that mirror what he told his fellow actor that night: 

Well, there’s a saying, ‘When the devil ignores you, then you know you’re doing something wrong.’ The devil goes, ‘Oh no, leave him alone, he’s my favorite.’ Conversely, when the devil comes at you, maybe it’s because he’s trying to do something right. And for whatever reason the devil got ahold of that circumstance that night.

The incident between the Fresh Prince alum and Chris Rock occurred as the latter was preparing to present the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. When referring to Jada Pinkett Smith, Rock mentioned that he couldn’t wait to see her in a G.I. Jane sequel. The barb was referencing her shaved head, which Pinkett Smith is sporting due to alopecia. It was shortly after that Smith walked on stage and slapped him. Rock declined to press charges and the newly christened Oscar winner later formally apologized. 

In the aftermath, one of the most high-profile stars to comment on the situation has been Jim Carrey. The veteran actor stated that he was “sickened” by the fact that after the incident, Will Smith received a standing ovation when he accepted his Oscar. Zoë Kravitz had a negative response to the slap as well, which she conveyed in an Instagram post. Academy Awards co-host Wanda Sykes also stated that she felt “traumatized” by the incident and felt “awful” for Chris Rock.

Will Smith’s actions soon led the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to initiate disciplinary action against him. Shortly after, Smith ultimately decided to resign from the Academy. Since then, Smith’s professional career has experienced a few shake-ups, as it was recently reported that two of his upcoming projects have been put on hold for the time being. 

With buzz still surrounding the situation, it’s possible that the public will continue to weigh in on the situation as time goes on. But at the moment, it would seem that Denzel Washington is one of the stars who has empathy for Will Smith’s current situation.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.