After Best Actor winner Will Smith attacked presenter Chris Rock onstage after Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s haircut, Perry and Oscar winner Denzel Washington were seen speaking with Smith in the audience. Now, almost three months later, Perry made it clear he was not comforting Smith but rather trying to further de-escalate a tense situation.
“There’s a difference between comforting and deescalating, that’s No. 1. And I left early to get to Chris to make sure he was okay,” Perry explained to Gayle King during Tribeca Film Festival’s Directors Series (via People). “Being friends with both of them has been very difficult.”
The “Gone Girl” actor clarified that Smith’s outburst was “wrong in no uncertain terms, and I made sure I said that to Will.”
Perry continued, “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. 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.”
Immediately following the slap, Perry said that Smith was “devastated.”
“He couldn’t believe what happened. He couldn’t believe he did it,” Perry said. “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….”
Following the incident, plus Smith’s subsequent apology and ultimate ban from attending the Academy Awards for a decade, Perry said that the “King Richard” star is coming to terms with his actions.
“I think he is very much in reflection of trying to figure out what happened,” Perry continued. “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.”
Jada Pinkett Smith addressed the Oscars slap on her Red Table Talk series earlier this month.
“My deepest hope is that these two intelligent, capable men have an opportunity to heal, talk this out, and reconcile,” Pinkett Smith said of her husband and Rock. “The state of the world today, we need them both. And we all actually need one another more than ever. Until then, Will and I are continuing to do what we have done for the last 28 years, and that’s keep figuring out this thing called life together. Thank you for listening.”