Los Angeles: In a wild, viral moment, so improbable many thought it had to be scripted, Hollywood star Will Smith rushed up to the Oscar stage and slapped Chris Rock after the comedian cracked a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith. It was a moment of sheer madness, but Smith while using four-letter expletives thundered that he won’t tolerate his wife being the butt of any joke.
Minutes later, the 53-year-old actor bagged the best actor Oscar for his role in King Richard, making him the cynosure of attention, both good and bad at the 94th Academy Awards.
Jada Pinket-Smith suffers from ‘Alopecia Areata’, an auto immune disease that leads to loss of hair. It has forced her to shave off her head and when Rock cracked a joke on her, Smith stepped in… heavily.
But then this is not the first time that goof-ups have occurred on the Oscar stage. Rock had also mocked Jade in his 2016 Oscars monologue when he was a host. He had then said Jade had boycotted the ceremony because mostly white actors were nominated. It also did not go down well with the crowd then.
Minutes later Smith was again on the stage… for a different reason though. He had won the Oscar for best actor. Smith referenced the incident and apologised to the Academy for what transpired earlier. However, he didn’t name Rock or apologise to him. “I want to apologise to the Academy. I want to apologise to all my fellow nominees,” Smith said tearfully. “Love can make you do crazy things at times,” he added. Smith also said he hoped the Academy will ‘invite’ him back.
This Oscar slapgate will certainly be etched in the Awards history book and will push into oblivion the announcement of the wrong film as winner in 2017. Presenting the award alongside Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway announced La La Land as ‘Best Picture’. After producer Jordan Horowitz began his acceptance speech, there was some commotion on the stage before Horowitz looked down at the card he was holding and announced that there had been a mistake: Moonlight was, in fact, ‘Best Picture’.
However, 2017 wasn’t only year of the mixed envelopes or the first time the wrong winner was announced at the Oscar stage. In 1964, Sammy Davis (Jr) took the stage to present the award for ‘Best Musical Score’. He read out the list of nominees and proceeded to announce Tom Jones as the winner. Davis (Jr) soon realised there was some confusion as Tom Jones’ name wasn’t even in the list of nominees. The error was soon rectified as he was handed the correct envelope. The real winner was Irma La Douce’s André Previn.
At the 86th Academy Awards it was the case of mistaken identity. John Travolta was given the responsibility of introducing Idina Menzel on stage. This was a special year for the ‘Let It Go’ singer as Frozen had won many accolades. While introducing Idina, John announced ‘the wickedly talented Adele Dazeem’. To make up for this, Idina and John were co-presenters at the next year’s ceremony which again turned out to be awkward as the latter kept caressing Idina’s face repeatedly.
Yes, if one looks back at the history of the Oscars, there have been mistakes galore. However, with the passage of time, it must be said that the classy charm of the show has degenerated quite a bit. May be the organisers will argue that they have been forced to tweak the programme keeping in mind the demand of the frenzied social media audience. But the fact that many a time presenters tend to forget the difference between slapstick comedy and sarcasm and make class people the butt of their jokes. May be the Smith slapgate incident will for once act as hindrance to future personal attacks.