Tyler Perry Says Witnessing Oscars Slap Was ‘Painful’

LOS ANGELES, CA. February 21, 2020: Tyler Perry at the Hollywood Walk of Fame Star Ceremony honoring Dr Phil McGraw — Photo by Featureflash /Deposit Photos)

Tyler Perry has spoken out about witnessing Will Smith slap Chris Rock at the Oscars and moments later trying to “de-escalate” the situation.

The entertainment mogul opened up during a directors series panel on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. He set the record straight about a viral photo that showed him talking to Smith right after the slap at the Oscars on March 27, and said he was “de-escalating” the situation.

“There’s a difference between comforting and de-escalating, that’s No. 1. And I left early to get to Chris to make sure he was okay,” Perry told host Gayle King (via People). “Being friends with both of them has been very difficult.”

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Will Smith and Chris Rock After Oscars Slap (Credit: YouTube)
Will Smith and Chris Rock on stage after Oscars slap (Credit: YouTube)

Smith stunned Oscars viewers and the people inside Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, when he walked on stage and slapped Rock for telling a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head.

“Trust me, as painful as it was for all of us in the room, it was as painful for Chris, who was a pure champion for the way he handled it,” Perry added. “But I want you to understand that something happened that was extremely painful for [Will] as well. That is no excuse. He was completely wrong for what he did. But something triggered him — that is so out of everything he is.”

The Nobody’s Fool writer and director said Smith “couldn’t believe” what he had done.

“And I’ll tell you, when we walked over to him, he was devastated. He couldn’t believe what happened. He couldn’t believe he did it,” the filmmaker recalled. “I’m looking at this man in his eyes going, ‘What are you doing? This is your night.’ And to get all the way to this moment, winning an Oscar, that was one of the crowning moments of his career that he wanted so desperately, and to have something like that happen….”

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Will Smith won an Oscar on Sunday, March 27, 2022. (Credit: Shutterstock)
Will Smith won an Oscar on Sunday, March 27, 2022. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Perry added that Smith is still struggling with what happened.

“I think he is very much in reflection of trying to figure out what happened,” Perry said. “Because what I’ll tell you is I just read his book, and there’s this moment about not being able to protect his mother [as a child]. I know that feeling — I’m getting chills just thinking about it. I know that feeling of being a man and thinking about the little boy. And if that trauma is not dealt with right away, as you get older it will show up in the most inappropriate, most horrible time. I know Will. I know him well.”

Smith went on to win the best actor award that night for his performance in King Richard. But he was later banned from attending the Oscars for 10 years. The decision came in April when the film academy’s board of governors held an emergency meeting amid fallout from the slap.

Smith apologized to Rock via Instagram following the altercation, saying “I was wrong.”

At a stand-up comedy show in late March, Rock said he was “still processing” what happened.

Pinkett Smith recently called for the two to “reconcile” while commenting about the slap on an episode of Red Table Talk.