Will Smith took home his first Oscar on Sunday for his turn as tennis dad Richard Williams in “King Richard” just moments after slapping Chris Rock on stage.
During his acceptance speech, tears rolling down his face, Smith spoke of similarities between himself and his character, both “fierce defenders” of family as he attempted to address the confrontation over a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
Here is a transcript of Smith’s acceptance speech:
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.
Making this film I got to protect Aunjanue Ellis, who is one of the most strongest, most delicate people I ever met. I got to protect Saniyya and Demi, the two actresses that played Venus and Serena. 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.
But Richard Williams, and what I loved, thank you D. Denzel (Washington) said to me a few minutes ago, he said, “At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you.”
It’s like I want to be a vessel for love. I want to say thank you to Venus and Serena.
I just spit, I hope they didn’t see that.
I want to say thank you to Venus and Serena and the entire Williams family for entrusting me with your story. That’s what I want to do. I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern.
I want to apologize to the Academy, I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees.
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 of the people. Tim and Trevor and Zack and Saniyya and Demi and Aunjunue and the entire cast and crew of “King Richard” and Venus and Serena and the entire Williams family.
Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said. I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things.
To my mother. Um, a lot of this moment is really complicated for me, but to my mother. She didn’t want to come out. She had her knitting friends, she has a knitting crew watching with her. Being able to love and care for my mother, my family, my wife.
I’m taking up too much time. Thank you for this honor, thank you for this moment. I thank you on behalf of Richard and Oracene, the entire Williams family. Thank you. I’m hoping the Academy invites me back. Thank you.