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Will Smith slaps Chris Rock at Oscars ceremony; CODA takes top prize

By Michael Fitzpatrick - RFI
United States REUTERS - BRIAN SNYDER
MAR 28, 2022 LISTEN
REUTERS - BRIAN SNYDER

Actor Will Smith stormed the Oscars stage and struck comedian Chris Rock across the face for joking about Smith's wife, in a moment at Sunday's gala that left attendees and viewers stunned. In a separate surprise, the independently produced CODA scooped the top prize, becoming the first-ever streaming film to win the best picture award.

Rock was presenting the best documentary prize and cracked a joke comparing Jada Pinkett Smith's tightly cropped hair to Demi Moore's appearance in the film "G.I. Jane" and suggested she appear in a sequel.

Smith strode up to Rock and slapped him, before returning to his seat alongside Jada and shouting profanities.

Pinkett Smith, who is also an actress, suffers from alopecia, an autoimmune reaction which causes baldness. She publicly revealed her diagnosis in 2018.

"Keep my wife's name out of your fucking mouth," yelled Smith, forcing the producers to bleep out several seconds of audio from the televised broadcast in the United States.

The Los Angeles Police Department said it was "aware" of the incident that "involved one individual slapping another," but that "the individual involved has declined to file a police report."

No violence please, this is Hollywood

After the gala ended, the Academy tweeted that it "does not condone violence of any form," without directly referring to the incident.

Smith went on to win the Oscar for best actor for his role as the father of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams in "King Richard". He apologised to event organisers and his fellow nominees.

Deaf family drama "CODA" won best picture honours.
The independent drama starring deaf actors in lead roles which had been presumed a longshot for Hollywood's biggest prize until very recently, pulled off a remarkable late surge to emerge triumphant.

The film bagged the historic prize for Apple TV+, a relative newcomer in a streaming market dominated by rivals like Netflix.

"Thank you to the Academy for letting our 'CODA' make history tonight," said producer Philippe Rousselet.

Taking its title from the acronym for the expression child of deaf adult, the movie also won for best adapted screenplay, and best supporting actor for Troy Kotsur, who plays the father of a teenage girl who can hear and wants to pursue a career in music.

Kotsur dedicated his golden statuette to the deaf and disabled communities.

"This is our moment," he said.

Brannagh breaks his duck with 'Belfast'

Jessica Chastain won best actress for "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," in which she played a real-life televangelist who became an unlikely champion for the LGBTQ community.

"We're faced with discriminatory and bigoted legislation that is sweeping our country ... in times like this, I think of Tammy and I'm inspired by her radical acts of love," she said.

Actor and director Kenneth Branagh won the award for best original screenplay for "Belfast", his first Oscar in eight nominations in seven different categories.

The award for best original music went to Billie Eilish for her James Bond theme song "No Time to Die".

The gala held a moment's silence for Ukraine, while presenter Mila Kunis -- who was born in the country -- said it was "impossible not to be moved" by the resilience of "those facing such devastation".

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