Will Smith tearfully recalls 'rage' and regret over Oscars slap: 'That's not who I want to be'

Will Smith tearfully recalls 'rage' and regret over Oscars slap: 'That's not who I want to be'

Academy Award-winning actor Will Smith tearfully faced the fallout from the moment he slapped comedian Chris Rock in the face during March's live Oscars telecast.

"That was a horrific night, as you can imagine. There are many nuances and complexities to it. But, at the end of the day, I lost it, and I guess what I would say, you just never know what somebody's going through, you know?" Smith told Trevor Noah on Monday night's episode of The Daily Show. "I was going through something that night. Not that that justifies my behavior at all. You're asking, what did I learn? It's that we've just gotta be nice to each other, man. It's hard. I guess the thing that was most painful for me is, I took my hard and made it hard for other people. I understood the idea of when they say hurt people hurt people."

When Noah pressed him on the incident, Smith said he didn't want to go into detail about everything fueling his emotions that night, though he did address past traumas in his own life as contributing factors.

"It was a lot of things, it was the little boy that watched his father beat up his mother, all of that just bubbled up in that moment. That's not who I want to be," he said, wiping away tears. "I understand how shocking that was for people. On that stage, yeah, I was gone, dude. I was gone. That was a rage that had been bottled for a really long time, but I understand the pain. It was like, my nephew is nine, and he's the sweetest little boy, we came home and he had stayed up late to see his Uncle Will [on TV], and we're sitting in my kitchen and he's on my lap holding the Oscar, and he's just like, 'Why did you hit that man, Uncle Will?'"

Will Smith on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah
Will Smith on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah

Comedy Central Will Smith addresses Oscars slap on 'The Daily Show'

The 54-year-old finished the interview by reflecting on his inward battle with his own humanity — a process he's grappled with in the months since the Oscars show.

"I had to forgive myself for being human. Trust me, there's nobody that hates the fact that I'm human more than me, and finding that space for myself within myself to be human," Smith concluded. "I've always wanted to be Superman and swoop in and save the damsel in distress, and I had to humble down and realize that I'm a flawed human and I still have an opportunity to go out in the world and contribute in a way that fills my heart and hopefully helps other people."

The shocking moment occurred after Rock, who was on stage to present the award for Best Documentary Feature, made a joke comparing the shaved hair of Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who has alopecia, to Demi Moore's buzz cut in the 1997 film G.I. Jane. The upcoming Emancipation star got up out of his chair and hit Rock in the face, and continued to scream at him even after returning to his seat.

Following the ceremony, which also saw Smith win his first Best Actor Oscar for his performance in King Richard, the Academy banned Smith from attending all of its official events — including the Oscars — for the next 10 years. Numerous Hollywood figures, including ceremony host Wanda Sykes, spoke out against Smith's behavior, though others (like Pinkett Smith's Girls Trip costar Tiffany Haddish and Smith's Fresh Prince of Bel-Air collaborator Janet Hubert) praised him for defending his spouse.

Though he apologized on social media in the days following the Oscars, Smith fully addressed the controversy in a five-minute video released in July, in which he discussed his journey of "thinking and personal work."

"I was fogged out by that point. It's all fuzzy. I've reached out to Chris, and the message that came back is that he's not ready to talk and when he is, he will reach out," he said at the time, going on to directly apologize to Rock — which, as many pointed out, he did not do when discussing his actions in his Best Actor acceptance speech on the night of the incident.

Earlier this year, Pinkett Smith began an episode of her Red Table Talk show by calling for her husband and Rock to repair their relationship.

"My deepest hope is that these two intelligent, capable men have an opportunity to heal, talk this out, and reconcile," Pinkett Smith said. "The state of the world today? We need them both, and we all actually need one another more than ever. Until then, Will and I are continuing to do what we have done for the last 28 years, and that's keep figuring out this thing called life together. Thank you for listening."

Rock has since worked the experience into his stand-up sets, including at a performance at London's Royal Albert Hall in May.

"I'm okay, if anybody was wondering," he reportedly told the crowd. "Got most of my hearing back… Don't expect me to talk about the bulls---. I'll talk about it at some point… on Netflix."

Watch Smith's full interview on The Daily Show above.

Check out more from EW's The Awardist, featuring exclusive interviews, analysis, and our podcast diving into all the highlights from the year's best films, TV, and music.

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