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Chris Rock Finally Breaks His Silence Over Will Smith’s Infamous Oscar Slap

Chris Rock has opened up for the first time about the infamous Oscar slap he received from Will Smith.

While filming in January in Charleston, South Carolina, in preparation for his upcoming Netflix special Selective Outrage, The Wall Street Journal reported that Rock, 58, opened up about the incident which dominated discussions of the evening.

He said, “The thing people want to know. . . does it hurt? Damn yeah, it hurts;’ Rock also referenced their respective roles in Smith’s 2001 film Ali and his 1991 film New Jack City: “He played Muhammad Ali! I played Pookie!’

Rock added, according to The US Sun, “Even in animated movies I’m a zebra, he’s a fucking shark.”

Rock referenced one of Smith’s rap tracks saying, “I got hit so hard I heard Summertime ringing in my ears.”

The special will air live March 4 from the Hippodrome Theater in Baltimore on the streaming service, a week before this year’s Oscars air on March 13.

The Oscar swap between Smith and Rock came after Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, saying, “Jada, I love you, GI Jane 2, can’t wait to see it !”

The reference was to the 1997 movie which starred Demi Moore with a shaved head. (Pinkett Smith, 51, was diagnosed with alopecia, which causes hair loss.

The Philadelphia-born actor then took to the stage and punched Rock, then returned to his seat and yelled at him twice, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!” in front of a dumbfounded audience.

Later that evening – in his acceptance speech after winning the Best Actor Oscar for his role as tennis patriarch Richard Williams in King Richard – Smith apologized to the Academy and the other nominees, but made no reference to Rock.

Smith later repeatedly apologized for the incident and resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences before being banned from the Oscars for 10 years.

In an apology he posted in July for the incident in an online clip, Smith said his wife “had nothing to do” with his attack on Rock.

“I made a choice on my own based on my own experiences, my history with Chris,” he said. “I want to say sorry to my children and my family for the warmth I brought to all of us. I contacted Chris and the message that came back is that he is not ready to talk, and when he is he will contact me. So I’ll tell you, Chris, I’m sorry. My behavior was unacceptable and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk.

Chris Rock Announces Live Netflix Special “Selective Outrage”

Last month, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the creation of a crisis team ahead of the ceremony on March 12 this year.

“Through the last year, we’ve opened our minds to the many things that can happen at the Oscars,” Academy CEO Bill Kramer told TIME.

Kramer said the institution has set up organizing a group focused on emergency management at the annual event.

He said: “We have a whole crisis team, something we’ve never had before, and lots of plans in place.” We ran many scenarios. So we hope that we will be ready for anything that we cannot anticipate at the moment, but plan for in case it happens.

Kramer said the return of Jimmy Kimmel as host — the late-night star previously hosted in 2017 and 2018 — adds another layer of protection by having a veteran performer lead the show.

“That’s why you want someone like Jimmy on stage who’s used to dealing with live TV: things don’t always go to plan,” Kramer said. “So you have a host in place who can really pivot and handle those moments…because of the last year, we’ve opened our minds to the many things that can happen at the Oscars.”

Kramer said Academy officials “could have acted more quickly” in their reactions to the incident involving Smith and Rock, both on the night of the show and after.

“It’s really our response after the show, and how we talked about it, and how we talked to Will and Chris, and our hosts and our members,” he said. “It was a time to really bring people together.”

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