The actor was “on a knife edge” following a series of public humiliations when he finally snapped at Monday’s Academy Awards.
Even before he slapped Chris Rock, Will Smith was on a knife-edge after tolerating months of jibes about his marriage to Jada Pinkett Smith on the awards circuit, multiple sources tell the New York Post.
As he took a seat at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Monday, Smith — waiting expectantly to pick up his first Oscar — faced yet another joke about his open marriage to Pinkett Smith, which irked the actor.
In a tasteless bit earlier in the ceremony, host Regina Hall called up eligible Hollywood hunks on stage. She said, “Will Smith, you’re married but you know what you’re on the list and it looks like Jada approved you, so you get on up here.”
One source close to the Smiths said, “Will and Jada have taken the high road when it comes to ‘stupid gossip’ about polyamory and Scientology.
“But they have felt more exposed these past few years and it’s taken its toll.”
They have repeatedly been dogged with questions about their marriage of 25 years during this awards season, and Will is, according to the source, “fed up with it.”
Critics say that’s a little rich, considering Jada has been so upfront about the marriage issues and has even profited off them by discussing them on her Red Table Talk show on Facebook.
In 2020, the couple came clean about 50-year-old Jada’s “entanglement” with much younger R&B singer August Alsina, 29, who had claimed that he had an intense affair with the actress.
She admitted that she had been in “a relationship” with Alsina but she added that she didn’t consider it a “transgression” because she and Will were on a break at the time.
Then, in September 2021, Will, 53, told GQ that their relationship had evolved beyond monogamy and, “We have given each other trust and freedom, with the belief that everybody has to find their own way,” adding, “And marriage for us can’t be a prison.”
But it’s different for the Smiths when they aren’t controlling the message. While Will missed the BAFTAs earlier this month to stay in Los Angeles for the Critics Choice Awards, host Rebel Wilson quipped that his “best performance in the past year was being OK with all his wife’s boyfriends.”
At the SAG Awards last month, E! red carpet host Laverne Cox told the couple, “We can’t wait for … more ‘entanglements.’”
“No more of those,” Jada said repeatedly while Smith, beside her, forced a smile. Sources say the couple are not currently seeing other people.
The Post earlier reported that therapy has helped Will and Jada — who share son Jaden, 23, and daughter Willow, 21 — work through their issues. The actor revealed in his memoir that, after they temporarily split in 2011, he visited a Tantric sex expert and tripped on ayahuasca “14 times” to help heal his broken heart.
They’ve been through therapy, and this is where their relationship has landed,” said an insider. “They love each other very much.” Reps for Will and Jada didn’t comment.
But another source close to the Smiths insisted, “Jibes about their relationship doesn’t bother them – especially bulls**t rumors and gossip.”
The source added of Will’s issue with Rock, “This was personal. If someone else would’ve said it, it probably wouldn’t have mattered as much, but this was totally personal stemming from 2016 – and maybe before that.”
Jada – who starred in the Madagascar movies with Rock, is said to be particularly hurt by his jokes about her in 2016 and at this year’s Oscars, and Will wants to protect her, the source added.
The Breakfast Club host Angela Yee, on whose show Alsina, 29, first revealed his affair with Jada said of Will’s shocking assault on Chris Rock, “There’s no way that after all the things that have been said, all the jokes made, all the memes, everything — and this joke is the one thing that bothers you?
“I don’t know if it’s just directly at Chris Rock or just directed at everybody. But it just feels like it was a whole entire build-up of all those things and he was just frustrated,” she tells Page Six.
“I think part of the issue is with putting a lot of your business out there … it leaves you open for people to make comments and make jokes about any and everything because … the more you know, the more you can weaponise things against somebody.
She continued, “I personally don’t think Chris Rock jokes were so bad. But I guess when you look back at things that Chris said about them in the past maybe they don’t have a good history together.”
Rock poked fun at the Smiths back in 2016 when the A-list couple boycotted the Oscars due to all white acting nominees. “Jada said she’s not coming. I was like, ‘Isn’t she on a TV show?’ Jada’s gonna boycott the Oscars? Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited!” Rock joked.
Yee said that while Jada’s relationship with Alsina happened during a break in her union with Will, and he allegedly knew all about it, he may have felt under pressure to prove himself by defending his wife.
She explained, “I see a lot of people who are married who side with Will. Maybe Will was under pressure from Jada to prove his manhood as well. I see a lot of women supporting what Will did and I see a lot of husbands supporting him. But I also see a lot of comedians supporting Chris Rock.”
At this year’s Oscars, Rock made a joke about Pinkett’s bald head. She has been open about her battle with alopecia.
Will initially laughed at Rock’s joke, and Jada rolled her eyes. The camera panned back to Rock onstage, and Oscar insiders said what viewers didn’t see is the look Jada then gave Will.
One Oscar insider said, “Will was laughing at the GI Jane joke then Jada gave him a look that practically ripped him a new a**hole. He realised she was hurt.”
After hitting Rock, Smith won the best actor award for his role as the father of Venus and Serena Williams in King Richard. He made a tearful speech where he apologised to everyone except Rock.
The insider continued, “Using the words of Richard Williams to justify his own violence … then you go out to the Vanity Fair party, celebrate and rap to your own songs with no hint of regret about the assault – that’s a man who has problems, a sociopath.”
He and Jada were inseparable all night, holding hands after the notorious slap in the Dolby Theater, and later dancing at the Vanity Fair bash with their kids.
Comedian Donnell Rawlings, a close friend of Rock, said Smith likely has a beef with the comic that stretches back for years. Rock has used other, more extensive, material about Will and Jada during appearances at comedy clubs.
Of Rock’s joke about Jada at the 2016 Oscars, Rawlings said, “It’s my understanding that it was something going on with Chris and Will before or during the [Oscars So White] boycott in 2016, so it’s like how much can you push a person?
“It’s like OK we did it in 2016 — yes we could’ve handled it off the mic — but you choose the biggest moment in entertainment to come at me again?”
As Rock told his GI Jane joke about Jada, Donnell believes Smith’s reaction was based on his marriage, “In that moment when Will was laughing and Jada was rolling her eyes, you have to realise people hit Will Smith so hard about his relationship with Jada.
“You always got to understand the camera is always on you so smile … and probably on the inside something is saying something different — but it wasn’t until she reacted that he was triggered.
“Chris was sharp enough to get the s**t smacked out of him and everybody thought it was a sketch. But when Will said, ‘Keep my wife’s name out your f**king mouth’ Every Black person knows that is fighting words … it was a build up – it was like ‘Don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge I’m trying not to lose my head.”
Donnell continued of the slap, “It was one of the most gangsta moments to watch and it turned out to one of the worst moments in Oscar history.”
But not for everyone.
“The ride home between Jada and Will was probably a great for both of them,” Donnell says. “There’s no better sex than you have when you defend your woman’s honour.”
This story originally appeared on Page Six and is republished here with permission.