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Will Smith apologizes to Chris Rock, this time in video

Actor Will Smith posted a YouTube video Friday apologizing for striking presenter Chris Rock during the live TV broadcast of this year's Academy Awards ceremony. Audiences around the world watched Smith stride onstage after Rock made a crack about Smith's wife's short haircut. Smith slapped Rock in the face, then sat back down in the audience and yelled expletives at him.

Smith went on to win the best actor Oscar for his starring role in the film King Richard. But days later, he resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which then banned him from its events for 10 years.

"Chris, I apologize to you. My behavior was unacceptable and I'm here whenever you're ready to talk," Smith said Friday in the emotional video, adding that he had reached out to Rock and was told the comedian is not yet ready.

Earlier this week, Rock reportedly addressed the slap during his standup show in New Jersey. "Anyone who says words hurt has never been punched in the face," Rock reportedly joked, adding that he wasn't a victim and shook it off. "I don't go to the hospital for a papercut."

Hours after the infamous slap, Smith had written Rock an apology on Instagram. But this was his first message on video.

"There is no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment," he said. "There's no part of me that thinks that's the optimal way to handle a feeling of disrespect or insults."

Facing the camera, Smith sighed several times and appeared to hold back tears. He addressed questions that have been raised, such as: Why didn't you apologize to Chris in your acceptance speech? "I was fogged out by that point," he answered.

Smith has said he responded to Rock's joke about his wife's buzz-cut hair, similar to the style sported by Demi Moore in the movie G.I. Jane. Jada Pinkett Smith suffers hair loss and has publicly addressed her struggle with alopecia.

"After Jada rolled her eyes, did she tell you to do something?" was another question Smith answered in the video. "I made a choice on my own, from my own experiences, from my history with Chris," he said. "Jada had nothing to do with it. I'm sorry, babe."

Smith also apologized to Rock's mother Rose and brother Tony, once a good friend of his. He also said he was sorry to musician Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, who picked up his best documentary Oscar for Summer of Soul moments after the infamous slap. "It really breaks my heart to have stolen and tarnished your moment," Smith said, addressing Questlove. "And, you know, it's like, 'I'm sorry' really isn't sufficient."

Smith said over the last few months, he's gone over the Oscars incident many times, trying to work on himself. He closed the video message by saying he hates having disappointed people.

"I know it was confusing, I know it was shocking," Smith said. "But I promise you, I am deeply devoted and committed to putting light and love and joy into the world. And, you know, if you hang on, I promise we'll be able to be friends again."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.