The Academy of Motion Picture Art and Sciences said Monday it was launching a “formal review” of the shocking moment when Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars.
Smith — who went on to win the best actor award — marched onto stage during a show broadcast live around the world and hit Rock over a joke about the star’s wife, in an incident that overshadowed the glitzy ceremony.
“The Academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night’s show,” the Academy said in a statement to AFP.
“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.”
Celebrities from Tinseltown and beyond reacted with shock and stunned amazement to Smith’s outburst, with some defending him and others condemning his “toxic masculinity.”
The 94th Academy Awards was in its final hour when actor and comedian Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, starring in “G.I. Jane 2” — apparently poking fun at her shaved head.
Pinkett Smith, who suffers from alopecia, didn’t laugh, and her 53-year-old husband went onstage, smacking Rock with an open hand before returning to his seat.
Smith tearfully apologized to his fellow nominees and the Academy — but not Rock — a few minutes later as he accepted the Oscar for best actor for “King Richard.”
“Love will make you do crazy things,” he said.
The stunned expressions of celebrities in the room — such as Lupita Nyong’o, who was sitting nearby — became instant meme fodder, while outside the auditorium stars immediately weighed in to condemn Smith.
“He could have killed him. That’s pure out of control rage and violence,” filmmaker Judd Apatow said in a tweet he later deleted.
“Spinal Tap” director Rob Reiner dismissed Smith’s apology, calling for the star to show remorse to Rock personally and adding that the “Fresh Prince” star was “lucky Chris is not filing assault charges.”
“Stand-up comics are very adept at handling hecklers. Violent physical assault… not so much,” “Star Wars” icon Mark Hamill chipped in.
The comedy world was quick to rally to Rock’s side, complaining that Smith’s outburst could spark copycat behavior, endangering other stand-ups.
Emmy Award-winning Rosie O’Donnell called out a “sad display of toxic masculinity from a narcissistic madman,” while Kathy Griffin added: “Now we all have to worry about who wants to be the next Will Smith in comedy clubs and theaters.”
Booker prize-winning author Bernadine Evaristo suggested that Smith had not just wrecked what should have been his greatest triumph, but had also sullied his legacy.
“Only the fifth black man in nearly 100 years to win an Oscar for male lead, and the first in 16 years, resorts to violence instead of utilizing the power of words to slay Chris Rock. Then he claims God and Love made him do it,” she said.
Smith, who rose to fame in 1990s sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” has a history of antagonism with Rock going back several years, since the comedian took a verbal swing at Pinkett Smith over the couple’s boycott of the 2016 Oscars.
Smith went from the Oscars to the Vanity Fair after-party, where he and his family posed for photos.
Inside, he was filmed dancing and singing along to his 1991 smash “Summertime”.
Trade title Variety reported that when asked how he was after his eventful evening, Smith replied: “It’s all love.”
There was no immediate formal reaction from Smith or his representatives, though the actor appeared to address the controversy on Instagram.
Smith commented on his own pre-Oscars post — a video of him and Pinkett Smith that was captioned “got all dressed up to choose chaos” — adding: “You can’t invite people from Philly or Baltimore nowhere!!”
Smith is from Philadelphia, and Pinkett Smith is from Baltimore.
Some celebrities came to Smith’s defense, with singer Nicki Minaj saying that as her husband, Smith was privy to the pain Pinkett Smith endures.
“You just got to witness in real time what happens in a man’s soul when he looks over to the woman he loves & sees her holding back tears from a ‘little joke’ at her expense,” she tweeted.
“This is what any & every real man feels in that instant. while y’all seeing the joke he’s seeing her pain.”
Some social media users called for Smith to be stripped of his Oscar, but Academy governor and Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg said that would not happen.
“We’re not going to take that Oscar from him,” she said on daytime TV show “The View.”
“There will be consequences I’m sure, but I don’t think that’s what they’re going to do, particularly because Chris [Rock] said, ‘Listen, I’m not pressing any charges.'”