Watch Will Smith's Passionate Oscar Acceptance Speech After His Scuffle With Chris Rock

Will Smith has had an... interesting night. During the presentation of the Best Feature Documentary category, he took issue with a joke made by Chris Rock at his wife Jada Pinkett Smith's expense, prompting him to take the stage and actually slap the comedian, and a few minutes later Smith's name was announced as the winner of this year's Best Actor trophy. That's a level of intense that most people would probably buckle under, but Smith did not, as he instead ended up delivering an acceptance speech that will likely go down in history as one of the all-time memorable moments at the Academy Awards.

With tears already in his eyes, Will Smith began his speech by talking about how the man he portrays in King Richard, Richard Williams, was a person who took seriously the responsibility of defending his family – clearly a reference to him feeling the need to protect his wife following Chris Rock's offensive joke. Extending the metaphor and clearly talking off the cuff, he spoke passionately about also protecting his co-stars Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, and Demi Singleton in the making of the biopic (he shared a a big payday with them after their movie went to streaming), and how he feels about where he is at this point in his career:

I'm being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do, you've got to be able to take abuse. You have to be able to take people talk crazy about you. In this business you have to be able to have people disrespecting you. And you've got to smile and pretend that's ok.

Continuing, Will Smith acknowledged that Denzel Washington took him aside for a conversation following his confrontation with Chris Rock, and practically predicted the fact that the King Richard star would soon be taking the stage to accept his first Academy Award. Smith quoted the Tragedy Of Macbeth star, saying,

Denzel [Washington] said to me a few minutes ago, he said, 'At your highest moment, be careful – that's when the devil comes for you.'

Will Smith then apologized for his bold and brash actions – both to the Academy and to the other Best Actor nominees – but he added that he wasn't crying because of the stress of the moment or out of happiness for winning an Oscar. Instead, he said his tears were being shed because he was given the opportunity to share love for the King Richard cast and crew:

I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy; I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees. This is a beautiful moment, and I'm not crying for winning an award. It's not about winning an award for me. It's about being able to shine light on all of the people – Tim [White] and Trevor [White] and Zach [Baylin] and Saniyya [Sidney], and Demi [Singleton], and Aunjanue [Ellis] and the entire cast and crew of King Richard, and Venus [Williams], and Serena [Williams], and the entire Williams family.

Adding a bit of levity to the moment, Will Smith laughed as he noted that his confrontation with Chris Rock was an example of "art imitating life," and that he must look like the "crazy father" that people accused Richard Williams of being when he was training Venus and Serena Williams as children:

Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said. I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things.

For a full rundown of all the categories at tonight's Academy Awards, check out our 2022 Oscar Winners feature, and if you haven't already watched King Richard, you can stream it now on HBO Max. To learn how to watch all of the films that were nominated for Best Picture this year, check out our streaming guide.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.