Will Smith's disgraceful behaviour guarantees Oscars 2022 will go down as the strangest ever

“Keep my wife’s name out of your f****** mouth.” That’s what best actor winner Will Smith shouted – twice – after hitting Chris Rock in the face for making a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith.

Going out un-bleeped in the UK, it was a bizarre, shocking moment of violence that cast a weird pall over the rest of the awards, not least Smith’s own win for King Richard.

Smith appeared to take offence at Rock’s joke made about the short haircut of his wife, who suffers from the chronic hair loss condition alopecia.

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Though he eventually offered a tearful apology in his speech (to the Academy, not Rock), the actor also appeared to justify assaulting the comedian on live TV by talking about how God has called him to protect his people, then making art-imitates-life comments relating to his portrayal of Richard Williams, father of tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams.

US actor Will Smith (R) walks away after slaping US actor Chris Rock onstage during the 94th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on March 27, 2022. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

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That the assault immediately overshadowed what should have been a triumphant moment for best documentary winner Questlove’s incredible film Summer of Soul (or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) was a sad irony.

There was no way back for the ceremony as the fake smiles and already painfully unfunny skits — by co-hosts Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall — continued with barely any acknowledgement of the elephant that had suddenly entered in the room.

On an ordinary night, Jane Campion’s expected best director win for Netflix drama The Power of the Dog and the surprise best picture triumph for CODA, AppleTV’s earnest coming-of-age drama about a teenager with deaf parents (it also picked up best adapted screenplay and best supporting actor for deaf performer Troy Kotsur), would have been the stories of the night, representing as they did the first best director and best picture wins for any of the streaming services.

But Smith’s altercation changed the narrative and made the live broadcast essential TV in way that no-one could have anticipated, especially the Academy. Its own embarrassing attempts to boost ratings had involved introducing a Twitter vote for “cheer-worthy moment” and “fan-favourite film”, while disrespectfully relegating technical awards to an edited, pre-recorded slot, backfired when two different Zack Snyder movies won the former while Dune swept the latter.

True, Kenneth Branagh’s screenplay win for Belfast did bring a rare moment of classiness early on, but Will Smith’s disgraceful behaviour has guaranteed this will go down in history as the strangest Oscars ever.