You’re not alone if it feels like the 2022 Academy Awards, and Will Smith’s zeitgeist-dominating slap of Chris Rock, happened a decade ago. Now, after several months off the grid, the slapper has finally spoken publicly in a new YouTube video ironically titled “It’s been a minute…”
The video begins with a written disclaimer and a deep sigh from Smith, who walks in from off-camera looking a bit like he hasn’t had a good night’s sleep since Oscar week. He then proceeds to answer a series of questions, allegedly sourced from fans, beginning with “Why didn’t you apologize to Chris in your acceptance speech?”
“I was fogged out by that point. It’s all fuzzy. I’ve reached out to Chris and the message that came back is that he’s not ready to talk and when he is he will reach out,” Smith explained, while also apologizing to the comedian (“My behavior was unacceptable”),, his brother Tony Rock—who has been much more vocal about the ordeal than Chris—and their mother for his actions.
Rock may not be ready to talk to Smith, but he has talked a bit about the actor. Currently on a stand-up tour with Kevin Hart, Rock has brought the topic up in front of their massive audiences. “Anyone who says words hurt has never been punched in the face,” Rock said at a New Jersey performance, per Deadline and US Weekly. “I’m not a victim. Yeah, that shit hurt, motherfucker. But I shook that shit off and went to work the next day.”
Smith also stressed that he knows what he did was wrong, and apologized for stealing the spotlight from both his fellow Best Actor nominees and Questlove, who accepted the Best Documentary Feature Film award immediately after the slap and was visibly shaken by what had just occurred.
“I can say to all of you that there is no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment. There’s no part of me that thinks that’s the optimal way to handle a feeling of disrespect or insults,” Smith explained. He went on to say that “disappointing people” is his “central trauma,” and that seeing people who admired him be upset by his actions made a major impression on him.
“I am deeply remorseful and I’m trying to be remorseful without being ashamed of myself. I’m human and I made a mistake and I’m trying not to think of myself as a piece of shit,” he explained. “I promise you I am deeply devoted and committed to putting light and love and joy into the world.”
He also shed some light on the moment that preceded the slap, when Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett’s shaved head, prompting the actress to roll her eyes. Smith clarified that Pinkett did not ask him to do anything at that moment, and that he “made a choice on my own from my own experiences, from my history with Chris.”
Backlash from the slap has had a detrimental impact on Smith’s career, which seemed to be entering a renaissance following his acclaimed performance in King Richard. Per The Hollywood Reporter, projects like Bad Boys 4 and the Netflix film Fast and Loose now have uncertain futures because of Smith’s involvement. Emancipation, his collaboration with director Antoine Fuqua, had its release date pushed to sometime in 2023, per Variety. Smith was also banned from attending the Academy Awards and any related programming for 10 years, though he can still technically be nominated and win awards.