Denzel Washington has opened up about Will Smith infamously slapping Chris Rock at the 94th Academy Awards.
Bishop T.D. Jakes spoke to Washington at his annual International Leadership Summit on Saturday (March 31). The two-hour conversation touched on everything from Washington’s legendary acting career to his strong faith. At one point, Jakes asked about the slap and its immediate aftermath.
“Well, there’s a saying when the devil ignores you, then you know you’re doing something wrong,” said the Tragedy of Macbeth star. “You know, the devil goes, ‘Oh, no, leave him alone, he’s my favorite. Don’t bother him.’ Conversely, when the devil comes at you, maybe it’s because you’re trying to do something right. And for whatever reason, the devil got a hold of that circumstance that night.” The 67-year-old actor has been a mentor to Smith for decades.
Smith walked up to Rock, slapped him, and returned to his seat before screaming “keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.” Rock, visibly startled by the incident, reminded Smith that it was just a joke. Smith went on to win his first Academy Award a few minutes later for his portrayal of Venus and Serena Williams’ father in 2021’s King Richard.
During his acceptance speech, Smith shared that Washington warned him about the devil striking when one is at their “highest moment.”
Washington said that others joined him in speaking to Smith directly after the incident. “Fortunately, there were people there, not just me, but others in the gap,” Washington told Jakes. “Tyler Perry came right immediately, right over there with me.” Bradley Cooper also rushed over to the 53-year-old actor. The men then prayed together.
Smith is currently facing “disciplinary proceedings” and resigned from The Academy last week. In a statement posted on his Instagram account, he apologized to Rock and The Academy and called his behavior “unacceptable and inexcusable.”