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Punch of bel-air Will Smith says he was 'out of line' as he issues apology to Chris Rock over Oscars slap

The actor has said his behaviour at the Academy Awards "unacceptable and inexcusable" and said he was embarrassed by his actions.

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Will Smith hits Chris Rock on stage. Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters

Will Smith hits Chris Rock on stage. Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters

Will Smith hits Chris Rock on stage. Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters

Will Smith has issued a public apology to Chris Rock after slapping the comedian at the Oscars.

The 53-year-old called his behaviour at the Academy Awards "unacceptable and inexcusable" and said he was embarrassed by his actions.

Smith added that the joke about his wife's medical condition had caused him to react "emotionally" but "violence in all its forms is poisonous and destructive".

In a statement posted to Instagram the actor said: "I would like to publicly apologise to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong.

"I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.

"I would also like to apologise to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world. I would like to apologise to the Williams Family and my King Richard Family.

"I deeply regret that my behaviour has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us."

Smith concluded his apology by saying: "I am a work in progress."

Smith has been condemned by the Academy as it launched a formal review into his altercation with Rock during the Oscars ceremony.

The 94th annual awards show was thrown into chaos when Smith went onstage and hit the comedian in front of a star-studded audience, after Rock made a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith and her hair loss.

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Rock had compared Smith's wife - who suffers from the medical condition alopecia - to "GI Jane".

The incident overshadowed a night which saw Coda, which features a predominantly deaf cast, named best picture, while Troy Kotsur made history as the first deaf male actor to win a gong.

Kenneth Branagh won the best original screenplay prize for his semi-autobiographical film Belfast.

Smith, who won his first Academy Award for King Richard, appeared to take offence to a gag Rock made about Pinkett Smith's short haircut.

The Magic Mike XXL star and Red Table Talk host has previously spoken about her struggles with alopecia and said it is what prompted her to shave her head.

Referring to Pinkett Smith's buzzcut, Rock said: "Jada, can't wait for GI Jane 2," prompting the actress to roll her eyes.

However, Smith walked up on stage and hit Rock before returning to his seat and shouting twice: "Keep my wife's name out of your f****** mouth."

The altercation left Rock shocked and flustered as he tried to resume presenting the best documentary feature category.

In a statement on Monday, the film academy said: "The Academy condemns the actions of Mr Smith at last night's show.

"We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our bylaws, standards of conduct and California law."

As he collected his gong, Smith apologised to the Academy and his fellow nominees, but not to Rock, joking that he "looks like the crazy father".

Breaking down in tears, he said: "Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family.

"I'm being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people.

"I know to do what we do you've got to be able to take abuse, you've got to be able to have people talk crazy about you in this business.

"You've got to be able have people disrespecting you and you've got to smile and pretend like that's OK.

"I want to apologise to the Academy, I want to apologise to all my fellow nominees.

"Art imitates life, I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things."

He concluded by saying he hoped the Academy invited him back in future.

The Academy later said it did not "condone violence of any form" in a tweet posted from its official account.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) said no report had been filed after the incident.

"LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards programme," a spokesperson for the force told the PA news agency.

"The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report.

"If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report."

Oscars showrunner Will Packer later described the altercation as "a very painful moment for me".

He initially responded to the incident by saying: "Welp... I said it wouldn't be boring #Oscars," a comment that drew some criticism.

He later tweeted: "Black people have a defiant spirit of laughter when it comes to dealing with pain because there has been so much of it. I don't feel the need to elucidate that for you.

"But I also don't mind being transparent and say that this was a very painful moment for me. On many levels."

Rock's joke wasn't part of his routine during the rehearsals leading up to the show, according to two sources close to production who were not authorized to speak publicly.

But Rock had joked about Pinkett Smith before. He hosted the 2016 Oscars, when some were boycotting the ceremony over the #OscarsSoWhite group of nominees, including the Smiths. Said Rock then: “Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited.”

Smith's actions rattled a pivotal Oscar ceremony. Until that moment, producer Will Packer had steered an orderly and lighthearted telecast that the academy hoped would restore the Academy Awards following last year's record-low ratings. Sunday's ceremony reached an estimated 15.36 million viewers, according to preliminary Nielsen company numbers Monday. While a marked improvement over the 9.85 million that watched last year, it was still the second-least viewed Oscars.

Some academy members, like writer-producer Marshall Herskovitz, called for the academy to take disciplinary action against Smith.

“He disgraced our entire community tonight,” wrote Herskovitz on Twitter.

Whoopi Goldberg, a member of the Academy’s board of governors, said Monday on “The View”: “We’re not going to take that Oscar from him. There will be consequences, I’m sure.”

The Screen Actors Guild also weighed in. The film, television and radio union called the incident “unacceptable." SAG said that it had been in contact with the academy and ABC, and it doesn't comment on the guild's own disciplinary process.

A sense of disbelief hung in the air at the Dolby Theatre after Smith’s assault. Not only was it a hard-to-fathom break with decorum on live national television — an incident so dramatic, even movie-like, that many initially assumed it was a staged bit — it seemed wildly out of character for one of Hollywood’s most relentlessly upbeat stars. And it came less than an hour before Smith reached possibly the pinnacle of his career, winning his first Oscar, for best actor.

“In a way, I feel bad for Will Smith, too, because I think he let his emotions get the better of him, and this should have been one of the great nights of his life,” said former Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel on Bill Simmons’ podcast. “And now it’s not. Was there anyone who didn’t like Will Smith an hour ago in the world? Like no one, right? Now he doesn’t have a single comedian friend — that’s for sure.”

Some questioned whether Smith should have been allowed to continue to sit front and center after smacking Rock. Several stars rushed to counsel and calm Smith, including Denzel Washington, Bradley Cooper and Tyler Perry. But the timing was intensely awkward because the best actor category was due up soon after, and Smith had long been considered a lock for the award.

“I know we’re all still processing, but the way casual violence was normalized tonight by a collective national audience will have consequences that we can’t even fathom in the moment,” wrote Janai Nelson, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, on Twitter.

The drama overshadowed some historical wins at an Oscars. The deaf family drama “CODA” became the first film with a largely deaf cast to win best picture. For the first time, a streaming service, Apple TV+, took Hollywood’s top honor, signaling a profound shift in Hollywood and in moviegoing. Wins for Ariana DeBose of “West Side Story,” Troy Kotsur of “CODA” and Jane Campion, director of “The Power of the Dog,” all had made history.

Others came to Smith’s defense, including Tiffany Haddish, who co-starred with Pinkett Smith in “Girls Trip.”

“Maybe the world might not like how it went down, but for me, it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen because it made me believe that there are still men out there that love and care about their women, their wives,” Haddish told People magazine.

After the show, Smith posed for photographs with his family outside the Vanity Fair party. Inside, cell phone videos captured him dancing to “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” while clutching his Oscar. Their son Jaden tweeted: “And That’s How We Do It.” On Instagram, Smith posted: “Me ’n Jada Pinkett Smith got all dressed up to choose chaos.”

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