A tearful Will Smith recalled the moment his 9-year-old nephew asked him why he'd slapped comedian Chris Rock during the Academy Awards broadcast, telling The Daily Show's Trevor Noah he had to “forgive [himself] for being human.”
Smith shocked the world in March after he walked onstage and slapped Rock across the face during Rock's presentation for Best Documentary Feature. The slap was in response to Rock's joke about Smith's wife Jada Pinkett Smith's bald head, which she had been shaving since 2021 due to alopecia areata.
Smith returned to his seat and shouted profanity at Rock, who briefly responded, but completed his presentation without further interruption. But the incident overshadowed the rest of the ceremony, including the moment when Smith won Best Actor for his performance in the film King Richard.
Smith issued an apology the day after the incident and resigned his Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) membership. Ultimately, he was banned from attending Academy events for 10 years.
Rock declined to press charges.
Speaking during his latest press junket to promote his starring role in Apple TV+'s Emancipation, Smith said the incident capped a "horrific night" when he "just lost it."
You can hear what Smith said in the video below.
Will Smith - “Emancipation” | The Daily Showyoutu.be
Smith said his nephew's reaction to seeing him slap Rock onstage broke his heart:
"We came home, and he had stayed up late to see his Uncle Will. We’re sitting in my kitchen, and he’s on my lap and he’s holding the Oscar."
"And he’s just like, 'Why did you hit that man Uncle Will?'"
Smith also spoke in more detail about what motivated him to strike Rock that night:
"That was a horrific night, as you can imagine. You know, there’s many nuances and, and complexities to it, but at the end of the day, I just lost it."
"It was a lot of things. It was the little boy that watched his father beat up his mother, you know, all of that just bubbled up ... that’s not who I want to be."
He also acknowledged that his actions have likely hurt awards chances for Emancipation, which is his first film since the incident:
"These top artists in the world have done some of the best work of their career. And the idea that they might be denied because of me is like..."
"That is killing me dead."
Smith's admissions have received a largely negative response online.
Smith's comments mark the first time he's spoken at length about the incident since he was banned from Academy events.
Later, Noah thanked Smith for speaking so candidly, adding that he didn't want Smith to be defined by his "biggest f**k up." Smith responded that he has had to "forgive myself for being human" and said there is "no one that hates the fact I'm human more than me."
Smith went on to say that he "always wanted to be Superman" and "save the damsel in distress." However, he admitted that he had misstepped and still has opportunities "to go out in the world and contribute in a way that fills my heart and hopefully helps other people."