Denzel Washington, who was seen consoling Will Smith moments after the King Richard actor slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars last weekend, spoke out on Saturday about the night’s controversy, asking: ‘Who are we to condemn?’
Washington’s defense of Smith comes as the now-controversial actor faces production backlash over his stunt, with his upcoming Netflix film Fast and Loose and Bad Boys 4 both being put on hold, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Washington, 67, spoke out about the incident at author and bishop TD Jakes’ International Leadership Summit after a conversation focused on the Macbeth actor’s career and religious faith, when Jakes told Washington he had ‘stepped into the middle of World War III.’
Washington was seen speaking with Smith, 53, along with the Tyler Perry and Smith’s publicist, during a commercial break at the 94th Academy Awards after Smith slapped announcer Rock for making a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald hairstyle, which she sports due to her struggle with alopecia.
Smith has apologized over the incident and has plans to visit a luxury retreat to escape the chaos of the week and do some ‘soul searching,’ a Hollywood insider told The Sun.
Denzel Washington, left, spoke out on Saturday about Will Smith’s attack on Chris Rock at the Oscars ceremony. Washington was seen consoling Smith during a commercial break, moments after he slapped the ceremony’s announcer
Washington (pictured left) said that he, Smith and Tyler Perry (pictured right) prayed after Smith’s show-stopping loss of composure. He told bishop TD Jakes that he knew ‘the only solution was prayer’
Washington’s discussion of the incident came a day after Smith announced his resignation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences amid an impending investigation into his actions during the ceremony
Fast And Loose was originally to be helmed by Deadpool 2 director David Leitch, but he had withdrawn from the project just a week before the Oscars.
A source told THR that both Netflix and Universal had been competing for a new project from Leitch, but the traditional studio appealed to him more than the streaming platform.
Following the loss, Netflix started urgently searching for a new director to take over on Smith’s project.
After Smith shocked audiences at home and in Hollywood when he slapped Rock, Netflix opted to put his film on hold, the source told THR.
Smith had also been developing Bad Boys 4 for Sony, but a source told THR that the project was also on hold for the time being.
The star had already been sent 40 pages of the screenplay as Sony was eager to capitalize on the success of Bad Boys for Life, which grossed $204 million in box offices during 2020.
Smith still has the Apple TV+ film Emancipation set to be released later this year, which could provide a look into the actor’s popularity and his effect on projects following the Oscar incident.
While many wonder if Smith’s career will tank or if audiences will turn their back on him, Evan Nierman, CEO of crisis PR agency Red Banyan, claimed that Smith is here to stay.
‘Will Smith is too big to cancel, even after committing assault on live television in front of tens of millions of people,’ Nierman told Newsweek.
‘Already, he has been given special treatment because of his A-list celebrity status including being allowed to stay at the awards show despite his violent outburst.’
Entertainment lawyer Domenic Romano said Smith just needs to wait until public memory fades and continues to appear sympathetic and regretful in order to enjoy a proper comeback.
‘A lot will depend on what actions he takes to speak out against violence and whether he sends a clear and consistent message that his response against a poor-taste joke is not acceptable,’ the NYC-based managing partner told Fox News, adding, ‘If he goes out of his way to make amends, he should recover within the next 12 months, if not sooner.’
Smith (left) had also been developing Bad Boys 4 for Sony, but a source told THR that the project was also on hold for the time being. Sony was eager to continue the popular franchise co-starring Martin Lawrence (right) earned $204 million in the box office in 2020
Following the slapping incident, Washington told Jakes, he Perry and Smith prayed.
‘Fortunately there were people there. Not just me, but others,’ Washington recalled.
‘Tyler Perry, came immediately right over there with me. [Said] some prayers. I don’t wanna say what we talked about, but there but for the grace of God go any of us.’
‘Who are we to condemn? I don’t know all the ins and outs of the situation, but I know the only solution was prayer, the way I see it.’
Washington’s fellow stars who criticized the incident, including Jim Carrey and Zoe Kravitz, have faced backlash and were accused of hypocrisy as their own scandals were re-aired by Twitter.
Washington said it wasn’t an option to remain in his seat and not console Smith: ‘I couldn’t have sat in my seat. No way I could have sat in my seat,’ he said. ‘That’s just not who I am.’
During his acceptance speech as Best Actor, Smith thanked Washington, and said that the older actor had told him ‘At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.’
Washington, right, said it wasn’t an option to remain in his seat and not console Smith, center: ‘I couldn’t have sat in my seat. No way I could have sat in my seat,’ he said. ‘That’s just not who I am’
During his acceptance speech as Best Actor, Smith thanked Washington, and said that the older actor had told him ‘At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you’
Denzel expounded on the expression to Jakes on Saturday:
‘Well, there’s a saying: ‘When the devil ignores you, then you know you’re doing something wrong.’ The devil goes ‘Oh, no, leave him alone, he’s my favorite.’
‘Conversely, when the devil comes at you, maybe it’s because he’s trying to do something right. And for whatever reason the devil got ahold of that circumstance that night.’
Washington’s discussion of the incident came a day after Smith announced his resignation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences amid an impending investigation into his actions during the awards ceremony, saying he will accept any further consequences from the Academy’s board for slapping Rock.
Bishop TD Jakes, pictured, joked that Washington had ‘stepped into the middle of World War III’ by getting involved with Smith at his International Leadership Summit
In a statement on Monday, posted to his Instagram, the best actor winner for ‘King Richard’ said his actions ‘were shocking, painful, and inexcusable. The list of those I have hurt is long and includes Chris, his family, many of my dear friends and loved ones, all those in attendance, and global audiences at home.’
The Academy held an emergency board meeting of its governors on Wednesday to begin a formal review process of Smith’s conduct.
At his first stand-up show since the Oscars on Wednesday, Rock, 57, spoke briefly about the incident in Boston, saying that he was still ‘processing what happened.’
Chris Rock is pictured on Wednesday evening arriving at the Wilbur Theater in Boston ahead of his sold-out show
Chris Rock stopped his fans from cursing out Will Smith during his comedy show in Boston Thursday night
‘I don’t have a bunch of s*** about what happened, so if you came to hear that, I have a whole show I wrote before this weekend,’ the comedian told the audience at the Wilbur Theatre, who sang ‘ Will Smith’ and heckled the comedian about the incident.
‘I’m still kind of processing what happened. So, at some point I’ll talk about that shit. And it will be serious and funny.’
The following night in Boston, Rock stopped his fans from cursing out Smith during his comedy show in Boston on Thursday night.
‘F**k Will Smith!’ a fan shouted, likely in an attempt to show support for Rock.
‘No, no, no, no, no…’ the comedian replied, according to People, putting an end to the verbal attacks.