Tyler Perry is reflecting on what happened in the moments immediately following the Oscar’s slap heard around the world.
During a wide-ranging conversation with Gayle King as part of the Tribeca Film Festival’s Directors Series Perry detailed what happened in the moments after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock and how he attempted to console both his friends.
“I was there, close up. I left early to go check on Chris because it was wrong in no uncertain terms, and I made sure I said that to Will,” he said. “And I’ll tell you, when we walked over to him, he was devastated. He couldn’t believe what happened. He couldn’t believe he did it. And I’m looking at this man in his eyes going, ‘What are you doing? This is your night.’ ”
Perry (who was at the Oscars to honor Sidney Poitier during the In Memoriam segment) was photographed speaking to Will along with Denzel Washington directly after the smack, but as he clarified to King, he wasn’t “comforting” him, he was “deescalating” the situation.
“There’s a difference between comforting and deescalating, that’s No. 1. And I left early to get to Chris to make sure he was okay. Being friends with both of them has been very difficult,” said Perry.
“Trust me, as painful as it was for all of us in the room, it was as painful for Chris, who was a pure champion for the way he handled it,” he added. “But I want you to understand that something happened that was extremely painful for [Will] as well. That is no excuse. He was completely wrong for what he did. But something triggered him — that is so out of everything he is.”
In the weeks since the Oscars, Rock, has made brief jokes at standup performances referencing the moment, but he hasn’t yet spoken about it in length.
During the March awards show, 53-year-old Will walked onstage and struck Rock for making a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head.
Jada addressed the incident on a recent episode of her Red Table Talk show, saying, “About Oscar night: My deepest hope is that these two intelligent, capable men have an opportunity to heal, talk this out and reconcile. With the state of the world today, we need ’em both, and we all actually need one another more than ever. Until then, Will and I are continuing to do what we have done for the last 28 years — and that’s [to] keep figuring out this thing called life together. Thank you for listening.”
Will has since apologized to Rock (on social media) and resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which banned him from the awards show for 10 years. He can still be nominated and win one of the coveted awards.