Smith slapped Rock after he made an uncomfortable joke about Pinkett Smith. "Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2, can't wait to see it," Rock said during his bit, prompting Pinkett Smith to roll her eyes at the joke. (Pinkett Smith has been open about her struggles with alopecia, an autoimmune disorder which causes bald spots and hair loss.) Moments later, Smith walked onto the stage and Rock gave him an open-handed slap to his cheek. Smith then walked offstage.
ET has learned that Washington and Perry had a private moment with Smith inside the theater during commercial break after the shocking moment. They all hugged, and things seemed fine after. Washington was also seen stepping in between Rock and Smith, as Smith held hands with his wife.
A source tells ET, "The theater was silent after Will got up and hit Chris. No one could tell if it was staged or a joke at first. Then Will started yelling at the top of his lungs and cursing out Chris. Chris was visibly shaken and the whole theater was dead silent."
A second source tells ET, "It was incredibly awkward for the whole audience. Will's friends and team have been trying to calm him down."
Although the sound on the Oscars broadcast suddenly cut out after Smith slapped Rock, viewers could clearly see Smith yelling after he returned to his seat, "Leave my wife's name out of your f**king mouth."
A source tells ET that both Smith and Rock were in good spirits ahead of the moment. According to the source, Will was "so friendly" to everyone, and Rock was looking forward to his Oscars appearance.
"Chris was also so excited to be at the Oscars tonight, the source says. "Chris was saying a week ago that he was excited to present and was hoping that Questlove was going to win, that he could present him his award, and then this happened."
Smith later apologized to the Academy and his fellow Best Actor nominees for the incident after he won the Best Actor Oscar for his role in King Richard, though did not apologize to Rock. Breaking down in tears, he also mentioned Washington during his speech. Smith said Washington spoke to him about the heated moment with Rock and warned him, "Be careful. At your highest moment, that's when the devil comes for you."
"Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family. In this time in my life, in this moment, I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world," he also shared. "I'm being called on in my life to love people, and to protect people, and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do, you gotta be able to take abuse and you gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business you gotta be able to have people disrespecting you, and you gotta smile and you gotta pretend like that's OK."
"I want to apologize to the Academy, I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees," he continued. "This is a beautiful moment, and I'm not crying for winning an award. It's not about winning an award for me, it's about being able to shine a light on all the people...the entire cast and crew of King Richard."
An eyewitness tells that Smith and his wife exited the theater both smiling after his Oscar win, with Pinkett Smith walking a few steps ahead of him as Smith held his Oscar and spoke to his publicist.
ET spoke to Washington at the Oscars on Sunday, and he said Smith's Oscars honor was a "long time coming." Smith also talked to ET at the SAG Awards last month, where he talked about what Washington's friendship has meant to him over the years.
"Me and Denzel have had some moments over the past 15 years. He's always been a mentor for me, and he's seen a whole lot of iterations of Will Smith," he said. "Like, Denzel's always one of my first calls when stuff's not going right. He's given me critical advice at really critical moments."
"[Tonight], he just hugged me and said, 'This is your year,' and he said, 'I'm so proud of the man you've become,'" Smith added. "He grabbed a weight off of [my] shoulders and said, 'You got it.'"