Chris Rock’s bald joke aimed at Jada Pinkett Smith, which triggered Will Smith’s outburst at the Oscars 2022, was not scripted.
ABC exec Rob Mills — who was sitting in the Oscars production trailer on Sunday with the show’s producers and director Glenn Weiss — confirmed to Variety that the quip was ad-libbed.
While presenting Best Documentary, Rock joked about Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz before turning to Jada and saying, “‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it.” The comment caused 50-year-old Pinkett Smith — who suffers from alopecia and has shaved her head — to roll her eyes.
Smith, 53, marched on stage and slapped a clearly shocked Rock. The audio in the United States was censored but clips from other countries confirmed that an irate Smith bellowed, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f–king mouth.”
Mills says that initially, things seemed to be running smoothly.
“Chris Rock came on and he was doing, I think, material based on what happened that night as any comedian will do,” Mills recalled. He made the (‘G.I. Jane’) joke. Obviously, you could see the joke did not land with Jada. And then you see Will start to get up and walk up.”
Smith strode on stage to hit Rock after the “G.I. Jane” joke.AFP via Getty Images
It wasn’t until the production team heard the curse words did they realize the severity of the situation.
“You started to realize 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. “That’s when it became obvious that this was not a joke.”
The Disney exec acknowledged that the show was confusing for viewers at home as the audio was dropped for a lengthy period of time.
“When you’re on the button, which I wasn’t but our standards people were, I think you obviously go towards overcorrection than letting something get through,” he explained.
Smith later won the Best Actor Oscar for “King Richard.”FilmMagic
Mills added that if the show had been pre-taped, “we would have stopped down. Things would have been addressed.”
“But here, you have to remember you’ve got a show to do,” he continued. “Obviously this was something that was unfortunate, but it was not to a degree that you think, ‘OK, we need to just stop the entire show.’ And the show just kind of went on.”
The Academy later condemned Smith’s assault.
“We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law.”