Watch Will Smith win Best Actor Oscar, apologize for altercation with Chris Rock

Will Smith is now the reigning king of Best Actor, winning the Oscar for “King Richard.” (See the complete Oscars winners list.) His transformative performance as Richard Williams, the father/mentor of tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams, netted him a win over some tough competition: Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Power of the Dog”), Andrew Garfield (“tick, tick… BOOM!”) and two previous Oscar winners, Javier Bardem (“Being the Ricardos”) and Denzel Washington (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”).

Smith’s win was overshadowed by what happened earlier in the evening, when he slapped Chris Rock in the face on live TV for making a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. “I want to apologize to the academy,” an emotional Smith stated in his acceptance speech (watch above). “I look like the crazy father, just what they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things … I hope the academy invites me back.”

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For those living under a … rock, minutes earlier, presenter Chris Rock joked about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head (she suffers from alopecia) by saying she should star in “G.I. Jane 2.” Will Smith then approached Rock on the stage and slapped him across the face. “Leave my wife’s name out your f***ing mouth!” Smith screamed. A dumbfounded Rock responded, “I’m going to, okay? That was the greatest night in the history of television.”

Smith now enters the pantheon of Black performers who have won the Best Actor Oscar, following in the footsteps of Sidney Poitier for “Lilies of the Field” (1963), Washington for “Training Day” (2001), Jamie Foxx for “Ray” (2004) and Forest Whitaker for “The Last King of Scotland” (2006). Washington and Whitaker happen to have beaten Smith in his previous two times being nominated, for his performances in “Ali” (2001) and “The Pursuit of Happyness” (2006), respectively.

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Additionally, Smith is only the second Black actor to be nominated for both acting and producing in the same year, with “King Richard” earning a Best Picture bid. The first Black actor to pull this off was none other than Washington himself, nominated for producing and starring in “Fences” (2016). Smith is arguably the most recognizable A-list movie star to win Best Actor since Leonardo DiCaprio for “The Revenant” (2015), who also had to wait until he got to a certain age before voters were finally willing to give him the big one.

While Smith’s Oscar victory is significant, it was hardly a surprise leading up to the ceremony. The actor made a clean sweep of the major precursors, including the two with overlapping voters in the Academy — BAFTA and the Screen Actors Guild Awards — putting him firmly in the driver’s seat. “King Richard” was also evidently loved by Oscar voters, who showered the film with six nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress for Aunjanue Ellis, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Original Song.

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