Will Smith is an Oscar winner! Following a bit of controversy at Sunday’s 94th Academy Awards, the 53-year-old actor took home the Best Actor statuette for his role as Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena Williams, in King Richard.
The four-time nominee beat out Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog), Andrew Garfield (tick, tick … Boom!) and Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth) to secure the win.
During his acceptance speech, an emotional Smith seemed to address the shocking scuffle he had earlier in the show after Chris Rock leveled a joke at his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. He began by saying, “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… 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.”
Smith said that Denzel 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.”
“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “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.”
Finally, the Best Actor winner ended his speech with a mea culpa, though he did not publicly apologize to Rock directly. “I want to apologize to the Academy, I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees,” he said. “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.”
“Art imitates life, I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams,” he joked. “Love will make you do crazy things…. Thank you to the Academy, I hope you will have me back.”
The Best Actor Oscar isn’t the first recognition Smith has earned for his King Richard role. The actor also nabbed the BAFTA, Critics Choice Award, Golden Globe Award, NAACP Image Award and Screen Actors Guild Award for his performance.
“It feels great!” Smith told ET earlier this month of being recognized for his work. “… This is what I’m always trying to do. I’m always trying to make something that resonates, and the message penetrates. I am just taking the ride. It feels beautiful to be in this wave of love that people have for this film.”
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Source: ET Online