During the 94th annual Academy Awards, Rock was tasked with presenting the award for best documentary (which Questlove won by the way), but in true comedian fashion, the 57-year-old actor poked fun at Smith's wife Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock joked about a “G.I. Jane” sequel, referring to Pinkett Smith’s bald head.
Smith had at first seemed to laugh, while his wife, who has talked about her struggle with hair loss from alopecia, rolled her eyes and looked upset. Smith got out of his seat, walked up to Rock and slapped him then yelled at the comedian to “keep my wife's name out of your (expletive) mouth.”
The "King Richard" actor who went on to win the Oscar for best actor, took time out of his acceptance speech to apologize to the Academy and his "fellow nominees," but did not name Rock among them.
Stars react to the slap: Shell-shocked Governors Ball crowd is abuzz over Will Smith Oscars incident
A few people on Twitter were surprised by Rock's joke at the expense of Pinkett Smith's baldness, citing his 2009 documentary "Good Hair."
"HAIR is a VERY sensitive subject for many women of color; Black women in particular. Chris Rock knows this better than most b/c he produced a documentary called #GoodHair (that I starred in)... Will Smith was wrong, but Chris Rock was as well. Jada was visibly upset," Elgin Charles tweeted.
HAIR is a VERY sensitive subject for many women of color; Black women in particular. Chris Rock knows this better than most b/c he produced a documentary called #GoodHair (that I starred in)...
Will Smith was wrong, but Chris Rock was as well. Jada was visibly upset. #Oscars
— Elgin Charles (@ElginCharles) March 28, 2022
The project, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival, was inspired by Rock's 3-year-old daughter at the time who asked her father why she didn't have "good hair," according to the Los Angeles Times and MTV.
A few other Twitter users noted that "Good Hair" also tackled alopecia and featured interviews with Nia Long, Maya Angelou, Lauren London, Kerry Washington and other celebrities who divulged their own experiences with how Black hair was perceived.
Will Smith and Chris Rock's 2016 tension
Though Rock and Smith have worked together previously, specifically on a 1995 episode of the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," their relationship seemingly got rocky in 2016 when the comedian hosted the 88th Academy Awards.
During the 2016 ceremony, Rock's opening monologue mocked Pinkett Smith, who chose to boycott attending the show over a lack of diversity among the acting nominees.
"Jada says she’s not coming. Protesting. I’m like, ‘Isn’t she on a TV show?’ Jada’s gonna boycott the Oscars? Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited," Rock said during his bit.
Pinkett Smith responded telling X17 at the time that the joke "comes with the territory."
“Hey, look, it comes with the territory, but we gotta keep it moving. We gotta keep it moving. We gotta keep it moving. There’s a lot of stuff we gotta handle, a lot of stuff in our world right now. We gotta keep it moving."
Rock also took a slight jab at Smith who was snubbed for an Oscar after his role on "Concussion."
"Jada’s mad her man Will was not nominated for ‘Concussion.’ I get it, I get it. Tell you the truth, I get it. You get mad. Said it’s not fair that Will was this good and didn’t get nominated. You’re right. It’s also not fair that Will was paid $20 million for ‘Wild Wild West,’ OK?”
Contributing: Hannah Yasharoff
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Will Smith and Chris Rock's tension predates the slap by six years