Actor Will Smith has apologized to comedian Chris Rock for slapping him during Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, writing in a brief statement on Instagram that he was “out of line” and “wrong”.
The apology came hours after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said it had launched a “formal review” of the incident. The group behind the film awards said in a statement on Monday that it “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,” the Academy said.
Smith walked on to the stage at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday evening and slapped Rock, who was presenting the award for best documentary.
Rock had made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who has a shaved head and has spoken publicly about her hair loss from a medical condition, alopecia. After hitting Rock, Smith returned to his seat and yelled profanities at the comedian in an altercation that was censored from the US broadcast of the ceremony.
In his post, Smith said that he understood that “jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I react emotionally”.
“I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be,” he added. “There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.”
The incident has piled more pressure on the Academy, which has been trying to retool the Oscars amid lower ratings for the annual programme. Some critics said Smith should have been escorted from the auditorium after the incident instead of being allowed to stay for the rest of the ceremony.
Smith later won the Best Actor award for his performance in King Richard. In his speech, Smith apologized to the Academy, but not to Rock, and referred to Richard Williams — the father of tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams, who he depicted in the film — as “a fierce defender of his family”.
The Los Angeles Police Department said on Sunday evening that it was aware of an incident at the Oscars but the person involved had declined to file a police report, the Associated Press reported.
The awards show reached about 15.4mn viewers, according to preliminary figures released by Nielsen, up from about a record low of 10mn last year.
It remained unclear what consequences Smith could face as a result of the Academy’s review. Whoopi Goldberg, who sits on the Academy’s board of governors, said on the Monday edition of ABC’s The View that “we’re not going to take that Oscar from him”.
“There will be consequences, I’m sure”, she added.