Will Smith apologises for slapping Chris Rock at Oscars over Jada Pinkett-Smith gag

Will Smith has apologised for slapping and shouting at Chris Rock at the Oscars on Monday (NZ time), saying his "behaviour was unacceptable".

Rock made a joke about Smith's wife's appearance before the incident unfolded. Rock was roasting some of the award nominees and, after mentioning Smith, said of his wife Jada Pinkett Smith, "Jada, I love you. GI Jane II, can't wait to see it".

The comedian and actor was referencing the 1997 film GI Jane, in which actress Demi Moore shaved her head. Pinkett Smith told Billboard in December she has been battling the autoimmune disorder alopecia, which can cause hair loss and balding.

It's unclear whether Rock is aware Pinkett Smith suffers from the disease.

After the comments, Smith walked on stage toward Rock and threw an open hand at the host's face producing an audible smack.

"Keep my wife's name out of your f**king mouth," Smith said as he returned to his seat from the stage.

Will Smith slapping Chris Rock
Will Smith slapping Chris Rock Photo credit: Reuters

Smith - who won the best actor at the Oscars for his leading role in King Richard, a movie based on the lives of Serena and Venus Williams and their father - addresses the attack on Tuesday.

"Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behaviour at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally," Smith said in a Facebook post.

"I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.

"I would also like to apologize to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world.

"I would like to apologize to the Williams Family and my King Richard Family. I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us.

"I am a work in progress."

There was speculation on social media Smith might be charged for his actions but the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) confirmed he won't face criminal charges - for now.

"The individual involved has declined to file a police report," the LAPD said in a statement sent to media.

Should Rock change his mind, however, Smith could be in trouble.

"If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report," the statement said.

During his acceptance speech for best actor, Smith did apologise for his actions but failed to mention Rock. 

"I want to apologise to the Academy, I want to apologise to all my fellow nominees," Smith said with tears in his eyes. "This is a beautiful moment and I'm not crying for winning an award, it's not about winning an award for me."

"Art imitates life, I look like the crazy father," he added, as some in the audience laughed. "Love will make you do crazy things."

Even though Smith claimed the Best Actor award, the Academy Awards launched a formal review and held emergency talks overnight to discuss whether he should be stripped of the honour.

"The Academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night's show," a spokesperson said. "We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law."

His actions have been condemned by many, with AM co-host Melissa Chan-Green saying the incident was about "toxic masculinity" and overshadowed the entire event, while Bernadine Oliver-Kerby thought the incident was "testosterone overload".