Jay Leno has a lot of thoughts on Will Smith’s Oscars night assault of Chris Rock ― but is reserving much of his criticism for the Academy itself.
The former “Tonight Show” host is the latest in a long line of celebrities to weigh in on Smith’s televised altercation with Rock. Speaking to the Palm Beach Daily News in an interview published last week, Leno described Smith as a “good guy,” and said he was mostly shocked by what took place after the actor returned to his seat.
“To me, the thing that’s most disturbing wasn’t the slap, because he was kind of smirking after he slapped [Rock],” Leno said. “It was the yelling of the obscenities. Then you go, ‘Whoa. What’s going on here?’ This is real anger.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Leno took issue with what he perceived as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ inaction since Oscars night. The Academy has pledged to conduct a “formal review” of the incident that it said “will take a few weeks,” but Leno questioned whether such an approach is necessary.
“It had to be the most recorded assault in history,” he said. “I saw the back of his shoe, I saw Chris’ ear. There were so many cameras on this incident. What are you investigating? I know sometimes things are just what they appear to be.”
The Oscars had been expected to be a career high point for Smith, who did ultimately win the award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Richard Williams, the father of tennis greats Serena and Venus Williams, in “King Richard.” However, he ended the night in a firestorm of bad press after he slapped Rock live on stage for cracking a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and her bald head. Pinkett Smith has been open about her struggles with alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss.
Earlier this month, Smith announced he was resigning as a member of the Academy in the wake of what he called his “shocking, painful and inexcusable” actions. Days later, the Academy said it would ban Smith from attending the Oscar ceremonies for 10 years, though he’s still eligible to be nominated.