‘His worst moment’: Sean Penn’s fury at Will Smith Oscars ‘slap-gate’

Two-time Oscar winner Sean Penn has taken aim at the Academy and Will Smith over the infamous slap that sent shockwaves through the entertainment world.

Actor and political activist, Penn, 63, has given a wide-ranging interview to Variety magazine following the release of his documentary, Superpower, on Volodymyr Zelensky and the war in Ukraine.

In it, he said Smith’s storming of the stage to slap comedian and Oscars host, Chris Rock, in March last year was “his worst moment”.

Penn was furious the Academy didn’t invite Zelensky to address a captive audience for the 94th Academy Awards, which came only days after Russia invaded Ukraine.

“The Oscars producer thought, ‘Oh, he’s not light-hearted enough’. Well, guess what you got instead? Will Smith!” he said.

Variety‘s Stephen Rodrick interviewed Penn at his Malibu, California, home to unpack the long road to making Superpower before Russia’s invasion, and the early days of the conflict.

Penn has spent decades interviewing controversial leaders, including Mexican drug lord El Chapo, creating humanitarian rescue missions in disaster zones and declaring how he would’ve handled the September 11 terror attacks if he was US president.

But his fiery reaction to Smith’s slap was a reference to his own time spent behind bars in the 1980s for alleged domestic violence against then partner, singer Madonna. Penn said Smith’s slap of Rock was as if the actor had “spit on” his career and reputation.

“I don’t know Will Smith. I met him once,” Penn said.

“He seemed very nice when I met him. He was so f–king good in King Richard [the biopic about Serena and Venus Williams’ father, Richard].

“So why the f–k did you just spit on yourself and everybody else with this stupid f–king thing?”

Will Smith slaps Chris Rock in jaw-dropping Oscars moment

Smith, who went on to win best actor for his portrayal of Richard Williams, stormed the stage and slapped Rock after the comedian joked about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and her hair loss due to the medical condition alopecia.

Smith returned to his seat in the front row, and later in the same evening received a standing ovation for his Oscar win.

He was subsequently banned from all Academy events or programs for 10 years following his “unprecedented” behaviour.

Two days later, Smith issued a public apology to Rock and the Oscars production team, saying he reacted “emotionally” to the joke and that “violence in all its forms is poisonous and destructive”.

Penn, redirecting his anger back at the Academy, speculated the slap wouldn’t have happened if Zelensky had been in the audience or waiting backstage to address the 3300 at Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre.

“Will Smith would never have left that chair to be part of stupid violence. It never would have happened,” he said.

Penn won Oscars for mystery drama Mystic River (2003) and the biopic Milk (2008). He revealed at Berlin International Film Festival in February that he had gifted one to Zelensky.

He said was inspired by his “continuing shame towards the Motion Picture Academy”, reported Deadline.

“The Oscar is there in his office, and ready to be melted any time he wants to melt it.”

Penn called the gift “a small gesture, symbolic between two friends – inspired by my continuing shame towards the leadership of the Motion Picture Academy in choosing to present Will Smith smacking Chris Rock rather than the greatest symbol of cinema and humanity living today.

“Their loss.”

Madonna and Sean Penn together in 2016. Photo: Getty

Penn made headlines of his own back in the 1980s.

After he and Madonna wed in 1985, there were multiple allegations of domestic violence and altercations with paparazzi photographers.

He was sentenced to 60 days in jail in 1987 after punching and spitting on an extra on the set of Colors, the Los Angeles Times reported. He was 26 at the time and served only 33 days of his sentence.

There have been multiple other charges over altercations. In 2010 Penn was sentenced to three years’ probation and 300 hours of community service after attacking a photographer, the newspaper reported.

He was ordered to undergo at least six months of psychotherapy “for his violent behaviour”.

In Penn’s Variety interview, he reckons Smith should also have been jailed.

“Why did I go to f–king jail for what you just did? And you’re still sitting there?

“Why are you guys standing and applauding his worst moment as a person?”

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.