The Academy Awards are just days away, but the 2022 ceremony is still being talked about – a year after Will Smith slapped host Chris Rock on stage. In a recent interview, Richard Williams, the father of pro tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, defended Smith, who portrayed him in the film “King Richard.”
In an interview with the U.K.’s “Good Morning Britain,” Williams, 81, said he’d always stand by Smith, who received widespread backlash for the on-stage slap, and was banned from the Oscars for 10 years.
After Rock likened Jada Pinkett Smith to movie character “G.I. Jane” because she is bald due to a diagnosis of alopecia, Smith swiftly got up on stage and struck the comedian.
The day after the incident, Smith issued an apology – to Rock, the Academy and the Williams family, who were in the audience that night. “I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us,” he said in part.
“I think he has done the best that he needed to do,” Richard Williams said in an interview with Noel Phillips. “But I would never be disgusted with Mr. Smith. Matter of fact, I appreciated Mr. Smith.”
Moments after the slap, Smith got up on stage again, to accept the award for best actor for “King Richard,” in which he played Williams as he coached his daughters to greatness.
Williams said Smith’s ban from the Oscars should be lifted and that “it’s time for everyone to forgive” the actor.
Nearly one year after the slap, Rock released a comedy special that contained his first public mention of the incident. During “Chris Rock: Selective Outrage,” which was live-streamed on Netflix this week, Rock joked that “anybody who says words hurt hasn’t been punched in the face.”
“You all know what happened to me, getting smacked by Suge Smith. Everybody knows,” Rock said, referring to former music executive and convicted felon Suge Knight. “It still hurts. I got ‘Summertime’ ringing in my ears.”
Smith also spoke publicly about the slap in an interview with Trevor Noah last November. “I was going through something that night. And not that that justifies my behavior at all,” he said.”You’re asking what did I learn and it’s that we just got to be nice to each other, man. It’s hard. And I guess the thing that was most painful for me is that I took my hard and made it hard for other people.”