Apology posted on Instagram comes as the Academy reviews the incident, which was broadcast live around the world.
Actor Will Smith has apologised to Chris Rock for hitting the comedian during the live broadcast of the glitzy Oscars ceremony in Hollywood.
“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,” the winner of the best actor Oscar wrote on Instagram on Monday night.
Smith strode on stage and struck Rock in the face after the comedian made a joke about the appearance of Smith’s wife. Less than an hour later, Smith won the best actor award for his role as the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams in the film King Richard.
Rock, in a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, had referenced the 1997 film G.I. Jane in which actress Demi Moore shaved her head. It was unclear whether Rock was aware that Smith’s wife has a disease that causes hair loss.
“Jokes at my expense are part of the job,” Smith said on Monday, “but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.”
“I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be,” he added. The couple has been married since 1997.
The apology comes after the 9,900-member Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences, the body that awards the Oscars, condemned the 53-year-old actor’s actions and said it was reviewing the incident.
“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,” the academy added.
The group’s conduct policy states it is “opposed to any form of abuse, harassment or discrimination” and expects members to uphold the values “of respect for human dignity, inclusion, and a supportive environment that fosters creativity”.
Violations may result in suspension or expulsion from the organisation, revocation of Oscars, or loss of eligibility for future awards, according to the policy.
SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents actors, called Smith’s actions “unacceptable” and said it had been in touch with the academy and broadcaster ABC “to ensure this behavior is appropriately addressed”.
It is rare but not unprecedented for the film academy to revoke membership. Producer Harvey Weinstein was expelled in 2017 after more than three dozen women accused him of sexual assault. Weinstein was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison in March 2020 after being found guilty of rape and other sexual offences.
Smith’s attack shocked audiences and divided celebrities.
Rock declined to press charges, according to United States media.
In his statement, Smith also apologised to the academy, show producers, attendees, viewers, the Williams family and “my King Richard family”.
“Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable,” Smith wrote in his apology.