Will Smith hits Chris Rock after joke about his wife, Jada.

Matt Stevens

In an apparently unscripted moment that stunned viewers and audience members alike, Will Smith strode onstage and hit Chris Rock in the face after the comedian made a joke about the actor’s wife while presenting the best documentary award at the Oscars.

Rock joked that Smith’s wife, the actress Jada Pinkett Smith, was in “G.I. Jane 2,” seemingly a reference to her short-cropped hair. Pinkett Smith has said she has alopecia, a condition that leads to hair loss.

Smith yelled and cursed at Rock after returning to his seat, demanding that Rock not speak about his wife.

During the heated exchange, the telecast went silent on many screens, leaving confusion about what had happened and what had been said.

Rock, a presenter at the show, had been firing off jokes during a mini-monologue when he got around to actors and their spouses.

“Javier Bardem and his wife are both nominated,” Rock said. “Now, if she loses, he can’t win.”

“He is praying that Will Smith wins, like, please, lord,” Rock continued. “Jada, I love you. ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it, all right?”

The camera panned to Smith, who appeared initially to be smiling. But the joke drew a lukewarm reception, prompting Rock to add: “That was a nice one!”

Jada Pinkett Smith immediately rolled her eyes at the joke. Pinkett Smith has been open about having alopecia, posting a video on Instagram last year to explain how the hair loss had progressed. She first shared the diagnosis in 2018 on an episode of her talk show, when she said she had decided to cut her hair short after handfuls of it came out in the shower.

On Sunday, after Rock spoke, her husband was soon out of his seat. Smith walked down the runway toward the stage.

“Uh-oh,” Rock said. Smith approached, and hit Rock; the impact could be heard through his microphone.

Uncensored broadcasts of the telecast outside the United States showed that after being struck, Rock, trying to keep the mood light, acknowledged that Smith had “smacked” him, using an expletive to describe how hard he had been hit.

Back in his seat, Smith told Rock: “Keep my wife’s name out your fucking mouth!”

Rock responded, “Wow dude, it was a ‘G.I. Jane’ joke.”

Smith then repeated his demand.

Looking shocked, Rock said, “That was the greatest night in the history of television,” then moved on to awarding the Oscar for documentary feature to “Summer of Soul.”

Soon after, Smith won the Oscar for best actor, and he gave an emotional speech in which he said: “I want to apologize to the academy. I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees.”

At the end of his speech, Will Smith added: “Thank you. I hope the academy invites me back.”

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