Actor Denzel Washington on Saturday spoke out for the first time about Will Smith striking comedian Chris Rock on stage at the Oscars last week, saying: “For whatever reason, the devil got ahold of him that night.”
Smith strode on stage Oscar night and struck Rock after the comedian joked about his wife’s shaved head. Jada Pinkett Smith has from alopecia which causes thinning hair and balding. “Keep my wife’s name out your fucking mouth,” Smith then yelled — twice — from the audience.
Washington quickly approached Smith during a hastily arranged commercial break after the slap, and they prayed together, he told Pastor T.D. Jakes in an interview on stage at Jakes’ International Leadership Summit in Charlotte. A video of the interview was streamed on The Wrap.
Washington declined to reveal what else the men talked about.
“I don’t want to say what we talked about, but there but for the grace of God go any of us,” said the actor. “Who are we to condemn? I don’t know all the ins and outs of this situation, but I know the only solution was prayer.”
He noted: “There’s a saying when the devil ignores you, then you know you’re doing something wrong,” Washington told Jakes. “The devil goes, ‘Oh no leave him alone, he’s my favorite.’”
But “conversely, when the devil comes at you, maybe it’s because he [Smith] is trying to do something right. And for whatever reason, the devil got ahold of him that night,” Washington noted.
Smith referred to Washington’s words just a short time later when he accepted his Oscar for Best Actor in “King Richard,” a film about Richard Williams and his tennis star daughters, Serena and Venus.
“Denzel said to me a few minutes ago. ‘At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you,’” Smith said.
While he apologized to the Academy — but not to Rock — as he accepted the award Smith also appeared to defend his actions, saying that “love will make you do crazy things.” He also pointedly hailed Richard Williams as a “fierce defender of his family.”
Famed Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar earlier this week harshly criticized Smith’s evocation of the devil as an explanation for his violence when he accepted his award. Almodóvar, who watched from the audience, said it sounded like something from a “cult leader” or a “fundamentalist.”
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