Will Smith was less than 20 minutes away from collecting his first Academy Award for Best Actor when he stormed the ceremony’s stage and slapped Oscars host Chris Rock. The comedian’s ill-advised quip about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaven head, who has spoken publicly about suffering from alopecia, infuriated her husband, and he continued to shout at Rock after returning to his seat. “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!” he yelled.
Smith and Rock are no strangers to one another. Their relationship spans three decades and stretches back past 1997, the year Smith and Pinkett were married and G. I. Jane – the action-drama starring a shaven-headed Demi Moore which Rock referenced in his joke – was released. Over that time, Jada, Will and Chris have been co-stars and apparently friendly, but it’s not all been smooth sailing..
1995: A Fresh collab
In the sixth and final series of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the sitcom which made Smith’s name, Chris Rock played a double-header in the second episode as famous comedian Maurice Perry and Perry’s sister, Jasmine.
In the episode, Will lands a job on his cousin Hilary’s talk show and has to take Jasmine out on a date, in return for Maurice appearing on the talk show. The gag – prepare your sides – is that Jasmine isn’t considered to be attractive and Will is uncomfortable to be seen in public with her.
1997: Jada Pinkett has a Scream on The Chris Rock Show
This was a big year for Pinkett: she married Smith and was a key cast member in Scream 2, even though her character Maureen is killed off in a memorable sequence at the start of the sequel.
To promote the film she guested on The Chris Rock Show, where they joked about how quickly Black characters get offed in horror films. Towards the end of the conversation a bell rings and Rock yells, “YES! YES! YES!” As a crew member walks onto the stage and hands Rock a bottle of champagne, the host explains to Pinkett – and everyone else – what’s going on.
“You’re not going to believe this – Jada Pinkett, you win a bottle of champagne. You know why? Because you just did an interview without mentioning the name Will Smith.” Pinkett, on brand, screams.
1999: Keeping up with the Jonzes
Both Rock and Smith appeared in Torrance Rises, a mockumentary co-directed by and starring Spike Jonze, the ingenious film and music video director. This short film followed the Californian dance troupe made famous in Jonze’s video for Fatboy Slim‘s ‘Praise You’ – where he is also one of the dancers – and their trip to perform at the MTV Music Video Awards in New York.
2005: The Kids are alright
On this occasion, when Will Smith approached Chris Rock on the set of an awards show, the atmosphere was much more congenial. Rock and – what a coincidence – Jada Pinkett Smith were handing out the award for Favourite Voice from an Animated Movie at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards.
In recognition of his performance as Oscar in Shark Tale, Smith was awarded an orange airship-shaped gong.
2005: Rock and Pinkett travel to Madagascar
Ten years after Rock and Smith shared the screen together, Rock and Pinkett starred alongside each other as Marty the Zebra and Gloria the Hippo in the first of the animated Madagascar films.
In 2012, while promoting the third film in the series, Rock (no, he didn’t give Pinkett Smith a bottle of champagne for not mentioning Will Smith) mentioned how his children are big fans of hers: “Hey, my kids listen to your kids! [Willow Smith‘s 2011 single] ‘21st Century Girl’? Oh my god.”
2011: “Damn you, Will Smith”
Chris Rock appeared on The David Letterman Show to promote his Broadway debut in The Motherf***er With the Hat and Smith was the target of some teasing, as Rock discussed his own kids and wanting a child who can sing.
“That Will Smith messed it up for everybody,” joked Rock. “Kids singing and dancing. The guy’s already taken parts from me, now his kids are taking parts from my kids… Will Smith, don’t you have enough? Damn you, Will Smith!”
2016: The Oscars, Round One
In response to the lack of representation at the Academy Awards, Will and Jada – among others – boycotted the event. That year’s host was Chris Rock, who brought up their absence with some pointed comments during his opening monologue.
“Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!” Rock said. He then followed up with a swing at both her and Smith, suggesting she was annoyed her husband wasn’t nominated for the sports drama Concussion: “It’s not fair that Will was this good and didn’t get nominated, you’re right. It’s also not fair that Will was paid $20million for Wild Wild West!”
When Pinkett Smith commented on Rock’s jokes nearly a week after the Oscars, she appeared to have been in a sanguine mood: “It comes with the territory, we gotta keep it moving… We got a lot of stuff we gotta handle, a lot of stuff going on in our world right now. We gotta keep it moving.”