10 Biggest Oscars Controversies: Will Smith's Slap, Envelope-gate and More

From the Will Smith-Chris Rock slap to an onstage streaker, look back at the biggest scandals from the Academy Awards.

As the Academy Awards prepares to celebrate its 95th year, the prestigious awards show isn't without its fair share of controversy.

Long before the headline-making slap between Will Smith and Chris Rock during the 2022 broadcast, there have been numerous scandals and controversies to come out of the Oscars.

From reading out the wrong winner to cringe-worthy hosts and unwanted onstage PDA, ET is looking back at the most controversial moments in Oscars history:

Will Smith's Oscars Slap

In arguably the biggest scandal to ever come out of the awards show, Will Smith took to the stage and slapped presenter Chris Rock across the face after Rock made a joke about Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith's, shaved head during the 2022 broadcast. Pinkett Smith suffers from alopecia. Later in the evening, Smith went on to win the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in King Richard. Following the incident, Smith was banned from attending Academy events for 10 years.

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In 2017, the Oscars came to a shocking end when La La Land was declared the winner of Best Picture at the end of the broadcast by presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. In reality, Moonlight won the Best Picture award that year and the presenters had accidentally been given the envelope for the Best Actress winner (La La Land's Emma Stone). The live blunder was explained and the Moonlight team soon took the stage, where La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz handed them the statuette.

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Marlon Brando's Award Refusal

In 1973, legendary actor Marlon Brando won the Best Actor award for his role as Vito Corleone in the iconic film, The Godfather. But Brando refused to attend the show and accept the award, sending Native American actress and activist Sacheen Littlefeather in his place. Littlefeather brought a letter penned by Brando to the show, reading the actor's message that he was not attending the show to protest the treatment of Native Americans by the film industry. Littlefeather was booed by some of the celebrities in the audience while speaking, and she later told reporters that actor John Wayne was supposedly held back by six security guards to prevent him from rushing the stage. In June 2022, almost 50 years after the initial incident occurred, Littlefeather received a formal apology from the Academy for her treatment that evening. Littlefeather died later that year.

Adrien Brody Kisses Halle Berry

As he took to the stage during the 2003 Oscars to accept the award for Best Actor for his role in The Pianist, Brody grabbed presenter Halle Berry and gave her a passionate kiss. Though she played off the moment, Berry gave her candid take during a 2017 appearance on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen, saying, "No, that was not planned. I knew nothing about it. I was like, 'What the f**k's happening right now?' That is what was going through my mind. Because I was there the year before and I know the feeling of being out of your body, I just f**king went with it. But I was like, 'What the f**k's going on right now?'"

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John Travolta Presents "Adele Dazeem"

The wickedly talented one and only.... Adele Dazeem! As John Travolta stood on the Oscars stage in 2014, he announced the performance by Idina Menzel by flubbing her name in a now-viral moment.

Menzel later spoke about the unforgettable error, saying she had just eight seconds to compose herself before hitting the Oscars stage to perform "Let It Go" from Frozen.

During a Carpool Karaoke segment, she quipped of Travolta's flub, "It was the greatest thing that ever happened to me."

All White Nominees Lead to #OscarsSoWhite

In January 2015, the Oscar nominations were announced, revealing predominantly white nominees. This sparked April Reign to create the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, which went viral on Twitter. That year, the film Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay and starring David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. was nominated for Best Picture but received no acting or directing nominations. It eventually won Best Song for the anthem "Glory" by Common and John Legend. The next year, the show was once again criticized for nominating all-white performers in the acting categories, causing Jada Pinkett Smith to boycott the awards show and to create Careers in Entertainment under her and husband Will Smith's foundation to help reach out to marginalized groups to create access within the entertainment industry.

James Franco and Anne Hathaway's Hosting

It is arguably considered by many as one of the worst hosting jobs in Oscars history. Anne Hathaway and James Franco teamed up in 2011 to host the awards show and were widely panned. In a 2012 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Hathaway noted that she had not watched a tape of the hosting gig, saying, "Whether or not it was an actual failure, it was perceived as a massive failure," but also defended her performance, adding, "I went into it with a lot of trust and a lot of hope, and I had a blast doing it. And I realized afterwards, I played to the house; it’s a 3,500-seat theater, so I was just shooting energy to the back of it and it was like a party! It was great! And I think it looked slightly manic and 'hyper-cheerleadery' onscreen. But I have no regrets about doing it."

Michael Caulfield/WireImage

Angelina Jolie's Brotherly Love

Angelina Jolie showed a little too much affection for her brother, James Haven, during her appearance at the 2000 Oscars. Jolie won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Girl, Interrupted and during her speech, declared, "I'm in shock, and I'm so in love with my brother right now. He just held me and said he loved me, and I know he's so happy for me. And, um, thank you for that." Later in the evening, she was photographed kissing Haven on the lips at the Vanity Fair after-party, sparking controversy. Jolie later told Entertainment Weekly that there was nothing "more than brotherly" love between her and Haven.


Onstage Streaker

In 1974, host David Niven was onstage introducing Elizabeth Taylor when a naked man -- Robert Opal, an American photographer and art gallery owner -- streaked across the stage during the live broadcast. Niven laughed off the moment as the audience cheered, saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, that was almost bound to happen. But isn't it fascinating that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings."

Rob Lowe's Song-and-Dance Opener

During the opener for the 1989 show, Rob Lowe performed a disastrous song-and-dance number with actress Eileen Bowman, who was dressed as Snow White. In 2018, Lowe joked about the moment in a New York Times interview, saying, "The Academy asked me to do it. I was young and naïve, and I thought, 'Well, it’s the Academy, they must know what’s best.' I was also a huge fan of [composer] Marvin Hamlisch, who wrote the number, so I figured he would be writing something great." He shared that the Academy chose not to license Snow White and that Disney threatened to sue over the performance.

The 95th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will be handed out live at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California, on March 12 starting at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on ABC. In the meantime, stay tuned to ETonline.com for complete Oscars coverage.


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