Will Smith’s best actor Oscar win for “King Richard” on Sunday is the pinnacle of a long and illustrious Hollywood career, but the night will be remembered more for him slapping comic Chris Rock on stage.
The flamboyant 53-year-old rapper-turned-actor won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture for his depiction of tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams’ father in Warner Bros.’ sports biographical drama.
He bested two former winners named as Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos) and Denzel Washington (The tragedy of Macbeth) and the previous two nominees, Benedict Cumberbatch (The power of the dog) and Andrew Garfield ( tick, tick… BOOM!)
“I want to thank Venus and Serena Williams and the entire William family for trusting me with their story,” said Will Smith.
This acceptance speech came minutes after the actor apparently incensed by a joke made about his wife jada Pinkett Smith’s hairloss condition , climbed onto the Oscars stage and slapped Rock, stunning the whole crowd and viewers who were watching at home.
Will smith became emotional with tears streaming down his face as he compared his actions to those of Richard Williams, who coached and managed his daughters to remarkable tennis success.
“Richard Williams was a zealous protector of his loved ones.” Smith said
Smith previously stated that he “fell in love” with the Williams more than two decades ago, after watching him leap to then 14-year-old daughter Venus’s defense in an interview with an overly insistent journalist.
Smith was inspired to take on the job after hearing the interview, and he spoke about how “art imitates life” during his winner’s speech on Sunday.
“Like Richard Williams, I have the appearance of a mad parent.”On the other side, love will drive you nuts,” he declared.
The Hollywood A-lister had previously been nominated but had missed out on Oscars in 2002 for the boxing drama “Ali” and five years later for “The Pursuit of Happyness,” another parenthood storey.
Smith joins Sidney Poitier, who died in January, Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, and Forest Whitaker as the sixth Black man to win the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Smith, who was born in September 1968 in Philadelphia, was a good student who might have gone to college but opted to pursue a career in music instead, joining DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince in 1985.
Smith’s financial troubles drove him to explore acting, and he obtained a prominent role in the TV comedy “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” as a result of their commercial success and two Grammy Awards.
The comedy, which starred Smith as a troubled youngster forced to live with wealthy relatives in California, aired for six seasons and established Smith as a legitimate acting talent.
Smith got his first movie parts at this time, cementing his place as one of Hollywood’s rising stars with a main role in the action film “Bad Boys” opposite comic Martin Lawrence in 1995.
The next year, Smith featured in “Independence Day,” a major summer blockbuster in which he played a brazen fighter pilot battling aliens.
In 1997, he tackled extraterrestrials once more with the blockbuster “Men in Black,” which came out the same year as his smash-hit first solo album “Big Willie Style,” which went on to sell over six million copies.
Despite the critical acclaim, Smith’s early films were followed by the critically criticised “Wild Wild West” (1999), which fared well at the box office but was deemed a failure by Smith.
Smith had turned up the chance to play Keanu Reeves’ role in 1999’s “The Matrix,” the first in what has now become a money-making series of four films.
Smith branched out into more serious films like “Enemy of the State” and “The Legend of Bagger Vance” during the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the following decade.
He received his first Oscar nomination for his depiction of heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali in Michael Mann’s 2001 film “Ali,” and then followed up with sequels to “Bad Boys” and “Men in Black,” repeating his prior triumphs.
Smith didn’t forget his comedy roots and returned to form in 2005 with the romantic box office blockbuster “Hitch.”
The following year, he acted in “The Pursuit of Happyness,” in which he received an Oscar nomination for his role with his son Jaden, one of two children he has with his second wife, Jada.
Smith has now signed on for further “Men in Black” and “Bad Boys” sequels, as well as attempting to cash in on Hollywood’s superhero mania with “Hancock” and “Suicide Squad.”
Smith’s biggest box office hit was as the genie in Disney’s live-action “Aladdin” remake in 2019, but he’s also been in original sci-fi flicks like “I Am Legend” and “Gemini Man.”
But before “King Richard,” which received some of Smith’s strongest reviews of his career, there had been more critical failures than hits.
Smith plays Serena and Venus Williams’ larger-than-life father, coach, and manager in the film, which follows their unlikely climb from training on crumbling tennis courts in gang-riddled Compton to becoming all-time sports greats.
Smith was supposed to wear complete prosthetics to look like Williams, but the filmmakers decided to rely on his performance alone to win over the audience.
“He’d just slip into Richard Williams, which had all of Will Smith’s energy but this whole other aspect of his character — it was astonishing to behold,” co-star Tony Goldwyn remarked.