When Will Smith walked into the Dolby Theater on Sunday night, when he won his first-ever Oscar – best actor in a motion picture for the role of Venus and Serena Williams’ father Richard in King Richard, things didn’t go as he planned.
Earlier that night, after comedian Chris Rock insulted his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, while presenting an award, Smith stormed the stage, slammed the comic and yelled, “Get my wife’s name out of your damn mouth.”
The room fell silent in shock.
When he won Best Actor, Smith apologized.
“I know what we’re doing,” he tearfully said, “you have to be able to take abuse, you have to be able to make people talk crazy about you … You have to smile and pretend.” like that’s okay.”
He continued, “I would like to apologize to the Academy. I would like to apologize to all the other nominees.”
The wild scene that led to his victory takes place 20 years after he was first nominated for best actor for Ali and 32 years after the television debut of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Sunday’s moment of shock felt almost fitting. Because the long-awaited win for 53-year-old Smith is the final stop in a madness he’s been going through in recent months en route to his prestigious prize.
It was one of the most bizarre prequels to an even more bizarre Oscar speech seen in recent memory. Last fall, Smith published a memoir that revealed intimate details about his sex life with his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and other women. In a fitness YouTube series, he admitted to having suicidal thoughts. And during a magazine interview, Smith said he dreams of having a “harem” of famous women.
I don’t recall Anthony Hopkins or Daniel Day Lewis ever doing anything like that.
In his 432-page book, Will, published in November, Smith confided that he would vomit for a while after orgasm.
The gross habit began after an early breakup with a friend named Melanie, when Smith said he went “full ghetto hyena” with the ladies.
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“I’ve had sex with so many women, and it was so constitutionally uncomfortable to the core of my being, that I developed a psychosomatic response to orgasm,” he wrote.
“It would literally make me choke and sometimes even vomit.”
When he started dating Pinkett in the late ’90s, he said the courtship was immediately sexually charged.
“We drank every day, we had sex multiple times a day for four months,” he wrote. “I started to wonder if this was a competition. Either way, as far as I was concerned, there were only two choices: I would sexually please this woman, or I would die trying.”
Later in November, Smith revealed in a deeply personal GQ cover interview that he and Pinkett Smith now have an open marriage and that the institution “cannot be a prison” for them.
“We gave each other trust and freedom, believing that everyone has to find their own way,” he said.
He also controversially told the magazine that he used to wish he had a “harem” of women.
“I don’t know where I saw it as a teenager, but the idea of traveling with 20 women that I loved and cared about and all of that seemed like a really great idea,” he told GQ and added that the fantasy group would include Halle Berry and Misty Copeland.
That same month, he appeared in a six-part YouTube series called The Best Shape of My Life, in which he lost 20 pounds in 20 weeks due to the pandemic. The actor unexpectedly confided that he once had suicidal thoughts.
“When I first started this show, I thought I was physically in the best shape of my life, but mentally I was somewhere else,” the sobbing actor says in one scene to his mother Pinkett Smith, his son Jaden, 23, and his daughter Willow, 21. “I ended up discovering a lot of hidden things about myself. That was the only time in my life that I ever thought about suicide.”
The past four months have been some of the most tumultuous of Smith’s public life – crowned by one of the happiest moments of his career.