‘CODA’ takes top prize, Will Smith slaps Chris Rock at Oscars

“CODA,” a heartwarming movie about a deaf family with a hearing daughter, won a landmark best picture prize at the Oscars on Sunday, in a ceremony overshadowed by best-actor winner Will Smith’s slapping of presenter Chris Rock, Reuters reported.

“CODA” became the first movie from a streaming service, Apple TV+ (AAPL.O), to win the film industry’s biggest prize.

In a moment that initially looked like one of the gags that enliven the Oscars telecast, Smith strode up to the stage and delivered an open-handed slap to Rock after the presenter made a joke about the actor’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

But it swiftly became clear the moment was in fact unscripted when Smith, who had returned to his seat, exchanged words with Rock that included a twice-repeated obscenity, shocking the audience at the Dolby Theatre.

Minutes later, Smith learned he had won best actor. In his acceptance speech, he broke into tears and apologized to his fellow nominees and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences — but not Rock.

The altercation contrasted with the feel-good moments associated with “CODA.” When the movie won Oscars for best picture, best supporting actor and best adapted screenplay, nearly everyone in the audience stood and applauded in sign language.

“CODA” beat Netflix Inc’s (NFLX.O) contender, dark Western “The Power of the Dog,” and other entries from traditional Hollywood studios.

“I really want to thank the Academy for recognizing a movie of love and family at this difficult time that we need today,” producer Patrick Wachsberger said in front of the film’s cast standing on stage.

Hollywood’s most prestigious awards ceremony returned to all-out glitz after pandemic restrictions limited last year’s event.

The mood turned somber, however, after Smith slapped Rock following the comedian’s reference to the 1997 movie “G.I. Jane,” in which actress Demi Moore shaved her head. The comment was directed at Smith’s wife, who told Billboard in December she has been battling the autoimmune disorder alopecia, which can cause hair loss and balding.

“Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me,” Rock said as the audience laughed, at first thinking it was a skit.

Back in his seat, Smith shouted back, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.” The comment was silenced during the live U.S. broadcast on Walt Disney Co’s (DIS.N) ABC  .

Smith won best actor for playing the determined father of tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams in “King Richard.”

In his vague apology when accepting the award, he said, “Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family. Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things.”

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