Will Smith lacked will to hold back in rocky relationship with Chris Rock

Chris Rock reacts after being hit by Will Smith (R) as Rock spoke on stage during the 94th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 27, 2022. [Reuters, Brian Snyder]

Will Smith’s fiery slap across Chris Rock’s face during this year’s highly anticipated Academy Awards has left the world in awe.

The incident was trending on social media with the hashtag #Jada. More than 1.1 million Kenyans took part in the discussion on Twitter.

Celebrated comedian Chris Rock did what he does best, took a jab at a star, but this time around the crowd did not erupt in laughter.

“Jada, can’t wait for GI Jane 2,” the comedian said in reference to the 1997 action film in which the main character played by Demi Moore was a woman with a clean shave.

Rock made fun of Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head caused by a condition she suffers called alopecia which leads to hair loss.

Pinkett’s husband, Smith, laughed at the joke, but moments after walked up the stage and slapped Rock.

He then returned to his seat from where he shouted, “Keep my wife’s name out of your (expletive) mouth!”

While the slap shocked the world and became the subject of discussion on social media, it is not the first time Smith and Rock have crossed paths.

The tension between the two has been brewing for a long time.

We take a look at the history between the two celebrated personalities.

1995: Will Smith and Chris Rock co-star in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Their working relationship started when they both starred in the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

“Doubling up as a popular actor named Maurice Perry and his sister Jasmine, Rock’s guest appearance was featured on episode 2, season 6, titled ‘Get a Job,’ which aired on September 25, 1995,” People Magazine reports.

1998: The comedian hands Mr Smith his Grammy award for Best Rap Song

Soon after working together on the 1990s sitcom, Rock was tasked with presenting Smith his Best Rap Song Grammy Award. But that moment has been described by Complex magazine as “awkward.”

Before handing Smith his accolade, Rock repeatedly mocked the moment.

“(Rock) also repeatedly said ‘Get outta here,’ seemingly in disbelief, before giving the rapper his trophy. The pair also appeared in the 1999 Spike Jonze mockumentary Torrance Rises. The two haven’t co-starred in any major film since, and that might be in part because Rock feels like Smith has taken roles from him in the past, something he joked about over a decade ago,” Complex writes in the report What Led To The Slap: The History Behind Will Smith and Chris Rock’s Relationship.

2005: Will Smith accepts another award from Chris Rock, Kids Choice Awards
This interaction has been described as a “lighter one” by People Magazine which reported that the comedian presented a prized blimp to the actor for his work as Oscar in Sharktale.
“Five years later in 2010, Rock and Smith reunited at the show when they posed for a photo, alongside the latter’s son, Jaden Smith, backstage,” the magazine notes.

The report adds that Rock also worked with Pinkett. The two starred alongside each other in the 2005 animated film Madagascar.

2016: Oscars monologue
It was in 2016 when the tension may have escalated. Rock mentioned Pinkett during his Oscar’s monologue, taking jabs at her publicised decision to boycott the ceremony.
“Jada said she’s not coming, protest. I was like, ‘Isn’t she on a TV show?’ Jada’s going to boycott the Oscars? Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!” he said.
That year, the Oscars had drawn criticism for announcing a list of all-white nominees.

Variety entertainment magazine suggests that a strained relationship between the two dates back six years ago.
At the time, Pinkett had taken a hard stance against the award ceremony, saying the lack of inclusivity was “disgraceful on Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday.”
“I can’t help but ask the question: Is it time that people of colour recognise how much power, influence, that we have amassed, that we no longer need to ask to be invited anywhere?” she said on Facebook.

“Rock has toured with his stand-up act over the years, and multiple sources share that the comedian has made jokes about Pinkett Smith during his shows, angering Smith. The “G.I. Jane” crack on Sunday about Pinkett Smith’s shaved head appeared to have pushed Smith over the edge,” Variety reports in its piece, What’s Behind the Will Smith and Chris Rock feud?

Since the incident, Smith has apologised to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, which presents the award ceremony, his peers, and Rock. “I would like to publicly apologise to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong,” Smith wrote on Instagram.