Tyler Perry says Will Smith “was devastated” in the moments after he slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars.
The filmmaker was one of those who joined Smith after the shocking moment, stemming from a GI Jane joke that Rock made at the expense of Jada Pinkett Smith, allegedly unaware that she has alopecia. Perry also defended his own actions, saying he was not “consoling” Smith, but “reducing” the situation.
“There’s a difference between comforting and unscalable, that’s number one,” Perry told Gayle King Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival via People magazine. “And I left early to talk to Chris to make sure he was okay. Being friends with the two of them has been really hard.”
Perry said he was “up close” on March 27 – while paying tribute to Sidney Poiter during the in memoriam segment – and what Smith did “was wrong in no uncertain terms. I made sure to tell Will.”
Perry said that when he and Denzel Washington “came up” to Smith, “he was devastated. He couldn’t believe what happened. I’m looking at this man in his eyes saying, ‘What are you doing? This is your night. ‘ And to get to this moment, to win an Oscar, that was one of the crowning moments of his career that he so desperately wanted, and for something like this to happen…”
Smith, of course, was awarded the Academy Award for Best Actor for King Richard soon after, taking the stage and giving an acceptance speech. He received a standing ovation.
Perry said he thinks Smith, who publicly apologized to Rock and was banned from the Oscars for 10 years, “is a reflection of trying to find out what happened.”
However, he did point to part of Smith’s 2021 memoir. Go where the future All The star recalled, at age 9, witnessing her father punch her mother in the side of the head so hard she passed out. Smith wrote that for a long time he felt like a coward for failing her and not standing up for her father at that moment. He thought about killing his father to avenge his mother.
“I know that feeling of being a man and thinking about the little boy,” Perry said. “If this trauma isn’t dealt with immediately as you get older, it will show up at the most inappropriate, most horrible time. I know Will. I know him well.”
Washington, who helped de-escalate alongside Perry, previously said of the high-profile incident: “There’s a saying, ‘When the devil ignores you, you know you’re doing something wrong.’ You know, the devil says, ‘Oh no, leave him alone, he’s my favorite. Don’t bother him.’ On the other hand, when the devil comes to you, maybe it’s because you’re trying to do something right. And for some reason, the devil got hold of that circumstance that night.”
Smith, who resigned from the Academy amid the scandal, apologized to the Academy and the show’s attendees (but not Rock) as he accepted his Best Actor trophy during the predestined ceremony. Afterwards, he celebrated his win at an Oscar party with his family by dancing to “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It”. The next day, he publicly apologized to Rock (“violence in all its forms is poisonous and destructive”), but said, “Jokes at my expense are part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much to handle. me. bear and reacted emotionally.” Once the Academy issued the ban, he apologized again, calling his actions “shocking, painful and unforgivable. The list of those I’ve hurt is long and includes Chris, his family, many of my dear friends and loved ones, all global audiences and gifts at home.”
Rock, who declined to sue Smith on awards night, did not directly address the slap, only commented on it during his performance.
About Red Table Talk earlier this month, Pinkett Smith broke his silence on the situation in an episode dedicated to alopecia. She said she hopes Smith and Rock will “heal, talk it through and reconcile. With the state of the world today, we need both of them, and we all really need each other more than ever.”
She faced criticism for her comments, including from former co-star Vivica A. Fox, who said she was disappointed that she “didn’t take any responsibility” when the Oscar night video appeared to show Jada laughing in her seat after the slap.