Rock made a joke about the hairstyle of Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith that referenced the movie “G.I. Jane” in which actress Demi Moore shaved her head.
Smith, who is nominated for best actor for “King Richard,” walked on stage and slapped Rock in what at first appeared to be a scripted joke. But the mood turned somber moments later when Smith, back in his seat, shouted back, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fu****g mouth.”
The moment shocked the Dolby Theatre audience and viewers at home. At the commercial break, presenter Daniel Kaluuya came up to to hug Smith, and Denzel Washington escorted him to the side of the stage. The two talked and hugged and Tyler Perry came over to talk as well.
Fans took to Twitter to share their shock over the heated exchange which some guessed was staged.
Me during this Chris Rock and Will Smith moment #Oscars https://t.co/idTP8tuRvi
— Anneliese Bustillo (@anni_magus) 1648434516000
Hol on…was Will Smith deadass cussing out Chris Rock?! #Oscars https://t.co/9AmJjzaw5u
— Rachel. (@_loveRachel_) 1648434467000
WILL SMITH OMG THIS IS AWKWARD AF #Oscars https://t.co/HTfMsvyZF6
— jaevwill (@JaevonWilliams) 1648434472000
What just happened? Was that real? Did will Smith really swing a punch at Chris rock?? #oscars
— Christine Galea (@chrisgalea) 1648434451000
Wtf just happened on the Oscar’s…was that real with Will Smith & Chris Rock? https://t.co/6eNapdXNIG
— Andria H. (@andie_12h) 1648434509000
WOW! Will Smith just cussed Chris Rock tf OUT! WOW! Live at the #Oscars https://t.co/EX5tYdodKn
— Interterrestrial Computer Stove (@YourStankMule) 1648434498000
Everyone at the #Oscars just now with Will Smith: https://t.co/eJ6Yubje1d
— Xiomara Ramirez (@LadyXioG) 1648434579000
All of us trying to figure out what just happened between Chris Rock and Will Smith. #Oscars https://t.co/qM8LvVIJyp
— Brandon Pfeltz (@Brandinian) 1648434563000
Smith is widely expected to win his first Oscar later in the ceremony.