Sunday, September 17, 2023 – American actor and film director, Sean Penn has expressed his displeasure about Will Smith’s slap of Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars, nearly a year and a half after the infamous incident.
The Academy Award-winning actor, 63, questioned why the audience reacted with cheers for Smith, 54, later in the night; why organizers prevented Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy from appearing; and spoke about his own 1987 assault conviction in relation to the infamous incident.
Speaking with Variety on Thursday, September 15, Sean Penn pointed out all he felt was wrong with the events that unfolded on March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
‘I don’t know Will Smith,’ Penn told the outlet. ‘I met him once. He seemed very nice when I met him. He was so f***ing good in King Richard.’
‘’Smith undermined his own career performance and the vaunted honor he received in hitting the 58-year-old comic,” Penn said, as the violent incident overshadowed all events of the evening.
‘Why the f*** did you just spit on yourself and everybody else with this stupid f***ing thing?’ Penn said.
The Fast Times at Ridgemont High alum said that he didn’t understand why Smith was allowed to stay, and why the members of the audience cheered on Smith as he delivered an emotional speech after winning the Best Actor Oscar later in the night.
‘And you’re still sitting there? Why are you guys standing and applauding his worst moment as a person?’ he said.
In the wake of the incident, 2022 Oscars producer Will Packer said on Good Morning America that police were set to arrest Smith over the televised assault had Rock agreed to press charges on him, which he didn’t.
‘They were saying, “This is battery” – the word they used in that moment,’ Packer said. ‘They said, “We will go get him. We are prepared to get him right now, you can press charges. We can arrest him.” They were laying out the options.’
Penn brought up his own past assault conviction from 1987, in which he served 33 days of a 60-day sentence in Los Angeles County Jail after he struck and spat on an extra on the set of the film Colors, the Los Angeles Times reported.
‘Why did I go to f***ing jail for what you just did?’ Penn told Variety Thursday.
‘The Oscars producer thought, “Oh, he’s not light-hearted enough,”‘ Penn said. ‘Well, guess what you got instead? Will Smith!’
Penn said that he was also upset that producers would not permit a message from Zelenskyy to air at the show, which came just more than a month after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
According to him, it would have set a subdued tone that would have had Smith thinking twice about storming the stage.
‘This f***ing bulls*** wouldn’t have happened with Zelenskyy,’ Penn said.
‘Will Smith would never have left that chair to be part of stupid violence. It never would have happened.’
The incident at the 2022 Oscars took place after Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, saying, ‘Jada, I love you, G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see it!’
The reference was to the 1997 movie which featured Demi Moore with a shaved head. (Pinkett Smith, 51, has been diagnosed with alopecia, which causes hair loss.)
Smith then walked onstage and smacked Rock, then returned to his seat and shouted at him twice, ‘Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth!’ to a stunned audience.
Later in the evening in his acceptance speech after winning the Best Actor Oscar for his role as tennis patriarch Richard Williams in King Richard, Smith apologized to the Academy and other nominees but made no reference to Rock.
Smith subsequently apologized on multiple occasions over the incident, and resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ahead of being issued a 10-year ban from the Oscars.
In an apology he issued in July of 2022 over the incident in an online clip, Smith said his spouse ‘had nothing to do with’ his attack on Rock.
‘I made a choice on my own from my own experiences, from my history with Chris,’ he said. ‘I want to say sorry to my kids and my family for the heat that I’ve brought on all of us.’
He added: ‘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. So I will say to you, Chris, I apologize to you. My behavior was unacceptable, and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk.’