Will Smith opens up about beating Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars.
“There are a lot of nuances and complexities to it, you know, but at the end of the day, I just — I lost it,” Smith said on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Monday – his first since beating the Rock.
“I guess what I was going to say, you just never know what somebody’s going through,” he added in a more serious tone about the moment he slammed Rock for making a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith.
“You just don’t know what happens to people,” Smith, 54, added. “And I went through something that night.”
“Not that it justifies my behavior at all.”
Smith slammed Rock at the March 27 ceremony shortly before he won for Best Actor, when he took to the stage and slammed the comedian on live TV for making a joke about Pinkett Smith’s shaved head. (Jada, 51, lives with alopecia.)
The actor explained in a statement days later that the punchline was “too much for me to bear” and he “reacted emotionally.”
Speaking to Noah on Monday, he revealed the impact the events had on those closest to him – including his young nephew Dom, 9, who “stayed up late to see Uncle Will” at the 94th Academy Awards.
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“Why did you hit that man, Uncle Will?” he said Dom asked him when he got home.
“We just have to be nice to each other, man,” the father of three stated, reflecting on what he learned from the incident. “It’s hard. And I guess what’s most painful for me is that I took my heart and made it hard for others.”
“It was a lot of things,” he said of the motivation for his actions and his past history of fearing conflict. “It was the little boy who saw his father hit his mother. All of this bubbled up in that moment … You know, that’s not who I want to be … I was gone. It was a rage that had been bottled up for a very long time.”
“I have no independent recollection…” Smith added, referring to Noah describing the awards show as one of the “best and worst” nights of the actor’s life. “Yeah, it was a terrible night, as you can imagine,” Smith said.
In the weeks following the show, Smith resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and was eventually banned from attending Academy events for a decade. He has since apologized several times for his actions, including to Rock.
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The Men in Black actor is also about to return to the big screen for the first time since the Oscars in the slavery epic Liberationfor which he is still technically eligible to be nominated for another Academy Award.
“But he wouldn’t be able to accept the award in person if he were to win,” Entertainment Weekly Awards correspondent Dave Karger tells PEOPLE.
The film stars Smith as Peter, a man whose escape from slavery forces him to rely “on his wits, unwavering faith, and deep love for his family” as he runs from slave hunters through Louisiana.
The upcoming film is inspired by the “1863 photos of ‘Whipped Peter,'” taken during a Union Army medical examination, which first appeared in Harper’s Weekly,” reads a synopsis for the film.
One image from the set of images called “The Scourged Back” shows the man’s wounded back after a severe whipping by his enslavers — a photograph that “ultimately contributed to growing public opposition to slavery,” according to the synopsis.
“American slavery was one of the most brutal aspects of human history,” Smith told Noah Monday. “It was something that was so incomprehensible. It’s hard to understand the level of human cruelty.”
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“My daughter asked me, she’s like, ‘Dad, do we really need another slave movie?’ when I thought about it, and I thought – I said, “baby, I promise you I didn’t want to make a slave movie, this is a freedom movie, you know.”
Emancipation opens in theaters on December 2nd and begins streaming globally on Apple TV+ on December 9th.