Smith closed out his tear-filled speech by apologizing to his fellow nominees and the Academy, but not Rock, adding, "I hope the Academy invites me back."

In what might be one of the most shocking moments in Oscar history, Will Smith won his first Academy Award — just moments after climbing on stage to hit presenter Chris Rock in the face.

Smith won Best Actor for his role as Venus and Serena Williams' father Richard in King Richard — his first-ever Oscar win — and what should've been a celebratory moment was instead overshadowed by an earlier confrontation with Rock. While Rock was presenting the award for Best Documentary earlier in the broadcast, he made a joke about Smith's wife Jada Pinkett Smith. Smith then approached the stage and struck Rock, yelling, "Keep my wife's name out of your f---ing mouth," before returning to his seat.

While accepting the Oscar for Best Actor, Smith alluded to the confrontation and drew parallels between himself and Richard Williams, adding, "Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family."

"I'm being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people," Smith told the audience. "I know to do what we do, you've got to be able to take abuse, you've got to be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you've got to be able to have people disrespecting you. You've got to smile, and you've got to pretend like that's okay."

Will Smith
Will Smith wins Best Actor at the 2022 Oscars
| Credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Wiping tears from his eyes, Smith went on to thank Venus and Serena Williams and their family for entrusting him to help tell their father's story. He also apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees — but not Rock — for the outburst.

"Art imitates life," Smith added. "I look like the crazy father, just like they said. I'm the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things."

Smith also thanked his fellow nominee Denzel Washington, who was seen talking with him in the audience after the confrontation with Rock. Washington was also nominated for Best Actor for his role in The Tragedy of Macbeth.

"What Denzel said to me a few moments ago, he said, 'At your highest moment, that's when the devil comes for you,' " Smith explained. "I want to be a vessel for love."

Smith closed out his acceptance speech by once again thanking the Academy for the honor, adding, "I hope the Academy invites me back."

Pinkett Smith nodded and smiled during her husband's acceptance speech. The actress has been open about her struggles with hair loss due to alopecia, and she could be seen rolling her eyes when Rock made a joke about her shaved head, comparing her to Demi Moore in the film G.I. Jane.

In the Best Actor category, Smith beat out fellow nominees Washington, Andrew Garfield for Tick, Tick… Boom!, Benedict Cumberbatch for The Power of the Dog, and Javier Bardem for Being the Ricardos.

See the full list of this year's Oscar winners here.

Check out more from EW's The Awardist, featuring exclusive interviews, analysis, and our podcast diving into all the highlights from the year's best films.

Related content:

King Richard (2021 movie)

Will Smith stars in this biopic about the father of tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams.

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