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Will Smith slaps presenter Chris Rock at Oscars

Jane Campion became just the third woman in nine decades to win best director on Sunday at an Academy Awards celebration that was disrupted when nominee Will Smith slapped presenter Chris Rock onstage over a joke about the actor’s wife.

Hollywood’s most prestigious awards ceremony returned to all-out glitz at the Dolby Theatre after pandemic restrictions limited the event last year. The mood was mostly upbeat until Smith unexpectedly strode onto the stage after Rock made fun of the hairstyle of Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith.

Rock referenced the 1997 movie “GI Jane,” in which actress Demi Moore shaved her head.

Smith, who is nominated for best actor for “King Richard,” slapped Rock in what at first appeared to be a scripted joke.

But the theater turned somber moments later when Smith, back in his seat, shouted back, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.” Smith’s comment was silenced during the live U.S. broadcast on Walt Disney Co’s ABC

The proceedings resumed with awards, including the one for Campion for dark Western “Power of the Dog.” “Thank you academy. It’s certainly a lifetime honour,” she said as she accepted her award.

Troy Kotsur was named best supporting actor for his role in “CODA,” an acronym for “child of deaf adults.” Kotsur played Frank Rossi, the father of a teenager who struggles to help her family’s fishing business while pursuing her own aspirations in music.

“This is amazing to be here on this journey. I cannot believe I am here,” Kotsur said in a heartfelt speech delivered in sign language as he accepted the supporting actor honour.

“This is dedicated to the deaf community, the ‘CODA’ community and the disabled community. This is our moment,” he added.

The only other deaf person to win an Oscar was Kotsur’s “CODA” co-star Marlee Matlin. She won best actress for her role in 1986 romantic drama “Children of a Lesser God.”

Feel-good drama “CODA” and “Power of the Dog” are battling for the prestigious best picture prize from the 9,900 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. A win by either movie would mark a milestone by handing the statuette to a streaming service.

Netflix Inc released “Power of the Dog” while “CODA” streamed on Apple TV+.

“Power of the Dog,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a repressed cowboy who torments his brother’s new wife, outpaced all movies with 12 nominations. It had been considered the leader until “CODA” landed top honours from the Screen Actors Guild and Producers Guild.

Supporting actress went to Ariana DeBose for playing the spirited Anita, who sings “America” in Steven Spielberg’s remake of “West Side Story.”

As she held her gold statuette, the Afro-Latina actress asked the audience to imagine her as a young girl “in the back seat of a white Ford Focus.”

“You see a queer, openly queer Latina, who found her strength in life through art. And that’s what we’re here to celebrate,” she said.

“So, anybody who’s ever questioned your identity. Or find yourself living in the grey spaces, I promise you this: There is indeed a place for us,” she added, referencing the moving song from “West Side Story.”

DeBose also thanked “divine inspiration” Rita Moreno, who earned the best supporting actress award in 1962 for playing Anita in the original movie version of the musical.

Beyonce opened the show by performing “Be Alive,” an Oscar-nominated song from the movie “King Richard,” about the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams from a tennis court in the sisters’ hometown of Compton, California.

After going three years without a host, a trio was chosen to guide Sunday’s ceremony: Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes.

“This year, the Oscars hired three women to host because it’s cheaper than hiring one man,” Schumer joked.

“And for you people in Florida, we’re going to have a gay night,” added openly gay Sykes, referring to legislation in the state that limits LGBTQ discussion in schools and has been labeled by critics in Hollywood and elsewhere as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The show briefly acknowledged Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has killed thousands and driven a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people from their homes.

“Recent global events have left many of us feeling gutted,” said actor Mila Kunis, who was born in Ukraine. “Yet when you witness the strength and dignity of those facing such devastation, it’s impossible not to be moved by their resilience.”

Jessica Chastain, Nicole Kidman and other nominees donned a rainbow of colours for a ceremony with 2,500 gown- and tuxedo-clad attendees and free from last year’s pandemic restrictions that led to a scaled-down ceremony in a train station.