Oscars 2023: How Jimmy Kimmel addressed Will Smith’s slap in the face

Well, Oscar presenter Jimmy Kimmel came out swinging as he opened the 95th Academy Awards on Sunday.

The Jimmy Kimmel Live! host pulled no punches – er, slaps – when he addressed the giant elephant in the room at this year’s Oscars.

The elephant was the breathtaking moment during last year’s ceremony when King Richard star and Lead Actor winner Will Smith slapped presenter Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith on stage during the live broadcast.

“We want you to feel safe. And most importantly, we want me to feel safe,” Kimmel said during his monologue. “So we have strict guidelines. If someone commits an act of violence in this theater, you get the Oscar for best actor and you get to give a 19-minute speech.”

Kimmel referenced the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ crisis team, which was set up to deal with gossip-like circumstances, but immediately undercut its purpose.

“If something unpredictable or violent happens during the ceremony, just do what you did last year: nothing. Sit there and do absolutely nothing. Maybe even hug the attacker.

“And if either of you guys get mad at a joke and decide to come over here and ‘get upset,’ it’s not going to be easy,” Kimmel said, referencing Smith’s 1997 hit “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.” Name check of the impressive participants that a strike seeker “would have to go through first”.

The defensive presenter pointed to members of the audience and referenced their famous characters, including Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed, Everywhere at Once star Michelle Yeoh, Pedro Pascal’s The Mandalorian, Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man and Steven Spielberg’s “Fabelman” and Kimmel’s “hand man”, Guillermo Rodriguez.

“I know. He’s cute, but don’t be fooled, if you even wave at me, this cute little man will beat the Lydia Tár out of you, okay?” he added. “There won’t be any nonsense tonight. We have no time for gimmicks. This is a celebration for everyone here.”

Incidentally, the three-time Oscar host is no stranger to on-air glitches. He hosted the 2017 ceremony, which culminated in the erroneous announcement of “La La Land” as the best picture winner instead of “Moonlight” due to an envelope mix-up. “I knew I was going to screw up this show, I really did,” the host quipped at the time, but then returned to host the following year before the ceremony went through a three-year drought.

He also made headlines at the Emmy Awards last September when he played dead in the middle of Quinta Brunson’s acceptance speech for a misguided gag. He later issued a more formal apology to the Abbott Elementary star and creator on his late-night show.

As for the aftermath of the slap that was heard around the world, Smith won the Oscar for leading actor less than an hour after he slapped Rock. Although he was allowed to keep his Oscar and repeatedly apologized, the “Ali” and “The Pursuit of Happyness” star was subsequently banned from the Academy Awards and related events for 10 years. (That explains why Smith won’t be attending tonight or presenting the Oscar for Lead Actress, as is tradition.)

Meanwhile, Rock was fairly quiet at first about the incident, only briefly alluding to it in stand-up routines over the past year. However, his most public remarks came last weekend on stage at the Hippodrome Theater in Baltimore – Pinkett Smith’s hometown – during his comedy special for Netflix, Selective Outrage.

Elsewhere in the monologue, Kimmel pocketed “Till” and “The Woman King,” Rihanna’s son, and referenced the envelope blunder at the Oscars. The comedian also targeted Nicole Kidman’s AMC theater commercials, the diabetes drug Ozempic, Irish actors, directors Spielberg and James Cameron, the lack of female directors nominated, “Babylon,” which reportedly lost $100 million , and two Encino Man actors (Brendan Fraser and Ke Huy Quan) were nominated for Oscars.

But Kimmel’s opener isn’t where the slap references left off. Returning to the stage to introduce the documentary category — the category Rock was presenting in 2022 when he was hit by Smith — Kimmel took another swipe at Smith’s work. This time it was the actor’s beloved 2005 rom-com Hitch.

“Our next category is documentary, where you might remember we had this little skirmish last year,” he said. “Hopefully this time things will go smoothly. Or at least without a hitch. Please put your hands together and then keep them for Oscar winners Riz Ahmed and Ahmir Questlove Thompson.”

Questlove’s Summer of Soul win last year was eclipsed by the slap in the face, and the Oscar producers brought it back to the present this year.

Emily St. Martin, a Times contributor, contributed to this report.

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