The best supporting actors in the Smith/Rock scandal

An Oscar-owning moment requires a team effort...

Who even won stuff at the Oscars anyway? If you’ve struggled to cut through the obvious Main Event of the night, you’re not alone. Since the ceremony took place on Sunday, endless discourse has been whirling around the very public altercation that took place between Best Actor winner Will Smith, and the awards host, comedian Chris Rock. After Rock told a poorly-judged joke about Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith, which appeared to reference the fact she has alopecia (a hair loss condition), Smith went on stage and slapped the presenter across the face, before returning to his seat and yelling at him to “keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth”. The hot takes have kept coming ever since, with one person noting in a now-deleted viral tweet that a similar slap could’ve killed the late Betty White (who died in 2021 and was very much not present at this year’s Oscars). As Queen & Slim actor Jodie Turner Smith put it afterwards,  “I have second hand embarrassment for all involved.

Still, in a night largely dominated by Smith’s unplanned outburst, a handful of other key players managed to cut through the chaos. Without further ado, here are our best supporting actors.

Liam Payne

Winner: Best Unplaceable Accent

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Reflecting on the night’s events in a bizarre hybrid accent that fell somewhere between Bono, Tom Jones, and a Dutch exchange student, former One Directioner Liam Payne’s monologue on the “bewdy” and pain of humanity was surely the most surreal moment in a strange and unsettling night, which is quite an achievement. “It cut me really deep,” said the self-proclaimed “big movie fan” in an interview with Good Morning Britain, referring to Will Smith slapping host Chris Rock. Along the way, jaw swinging like a clock pendulum, Payne managed to reference the fact that One Direction sold out Madison Square Garden (twice in the space of 30 seconds), called Will Smith “’the world’s greatest emoter” and wrapped up with his very own Molly ‘we do have the same 24 hours in a day’ Mae moment. “I was brought up [from] very humble beginnings and now I’m at the Oscars… “ he said. “Anything can happen”. Indeed it can!

Lupita Nyong’o

Winner: Best Aghast Onlooker

In some ways, we were all Lupita Nyong’o on Sunday night, watching developing events unfold from a nearby perch with a mixture of bafflement and shock. The Oscar winner, who took home Best Supporting Actress for her role in Steve McQueen’s 2013 film 12 Years A Slave, was in the seat next to Will Smith as he yelled at Rock to “keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth”. Looking from Smith to the stage and back again like a tennis spectator, you can see the precise moment that Nyong’o realises she’s not witnessing a choreographed ‘bit’.

Nicole Kidman

Winner: Most-Finely-Tuned Ability To See Into The Future

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Though viewers were quick to connect Nicole Kidman’s dramatic gasp to the moment when Will Smith stormed the stage to slap Chris Rock, this epic portrait of the Australian actor was actually taken hours earlier as she reacted to the arrival of Academy Award-winning actor and producer Jessica Chastain. Unless… and bear with this for a second… Kidman actually preempted the distinctly chaotic feel of the evening hours before anybody else. Either way, it’s refreshing to have a new meme in the bank after the 2017 Oscars, where she spent the night clapping like a seal.

Caitlyn Jenner

Winner: Second Most Awkward Altercation

While plenty of silver screen celebs piled onto the Oscars red carpet, Lady Gaga was taking care of co-hosting duties over at the Elton John AIDS Foundation’s Academy Awards viewing party before heading to the ceremony. On the way inside, the musician and actor bumped into Caitlyn Jenner, and entered into a bout of formal small-talk while eying the entrance. Both women have houses in Malibu, and – apparently – know each from queuing up for Frappuccinos together. “I never see you in Starbucks anymore!” Jenner says as Gaga stands clutching her ballgown, feet slowly shuffling in the opposite direction. “Well,” Gaga shrugs, “I changed baristas”. Will Smith should take note next time.

Lady Gaga

Winner: Best Exit From an Awkward Encounter

Gaga may have been snubbed by the Oscars nominations, but in our eyes she wins the gong for best subtle shutdown (see the previous entry). As anybody lucky enough to have a contact who gives them regular on-the-house coffee at Pret (shout out to my favourite barista at St Pancras Station, I still miss you every day) the idea of changing baristas isn’t always something to be taken lightly. Changing baristas says a number of things: usually ‘I moved to another part of town’ or ‘god, I cannot stand that customer who always buys her flat white at the same time as me’. Which one applies in this case? We’ll never know thanks to Lady Gaga having all the grace and decorum of a chart-smashing pop legend rapidly reversing out of her local coffee spot for the fourth time in a week and vowing to defect to Caffè Nero.

Lady Gaga (again) and Liza Minnelli

Winner: Best new duo

Next, Lady Gaga hot-footed it over to the main ceremony later on, where she was due to present the award for Best Picture alongside icon Liza Minnelli. Gaga has long admired Minnelli’s immense talents as an artist who paved the way, and grew up loving her work. “I’ve watched everything you’ve ever sung,” she told Minnelli when they first met backstage at Gaga’s Monsters Ball back in 2009, “every performance, every musical, every moment.” Sweeping into the room and casting her fur coat aside to give Gaga a hug, Minnelli advises her to go out there and “fuck ’em up!” before departing just as glamorously.

And at the Oscars, the duo reunited to announce Best Picture – marking a rare public appearance for Liza Minnelli. She was using a wheelchair and appeared to fumble her notes, but the pair stuck together, holding hands as they awarded the prize to CODA together. “I gotcha,” Gaga whispered as the nominees began to play on the big screens, without realising she was speaking into a hot mic. “I know,” Minnelli replied. “Thank you”.

Julia Fox

Winner: Best Supporting Actor Who Had Nothing To Do With Slap-Gate And Yet Embodied Its Chaos Anyway

Ahead of the Oscars taking a distinctly curly turn, Julia Fox channelled the essence of every single person in the world on a tight deadline when she declared that her first book – she was ambiguous when it came to revealing the genre – was “so far a masterpiece”. A close contender with Liam Payne for strangest red carpet interview, and on the upside, the Oscars will have gifted her tons of new writerly inspiration.

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