Will Smith has earned another trophy to his list of accolades. On Sunday night (March 27), the veteran actor was awarded his first Academy Award for his portrayal of Richard Williams in the acclaimed film, King Richard. Smith took to the stage to deliver an emotional speech following his triumphant win and after the controversial moment between himself and Chris Rock.
“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,” he began. “[In] Making this film, I got to protect Aunjanue Ellis, who is one of the most strongest, most delicate people I have ever met. I got to protect Saniyya [Sidney] and Demi [Singleton], the actresses who 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, you gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you gotta be able to have people disrespecting you. You gotta smile and you gotta pretend like that’s okay.”
Smith added, “Denzel said to me a few minutes ago, ‘At your highest moment, be careful that’s when the devil comes for you’…it’s like I wanna be a vessel for love. 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.”
The Philadelphia-bred icon closed out his speech with an apology to the Academy and his fellow nominees for his actions toward Rock.
“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,” he said as he gave more special thanks to the individuals involved with the film.
“Art imitates life,” he said. “I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things.”
He thanked his mother, his family, and his wife and joked, “I hope the Academy invites me back.” Watch Will Smith’s full acceptance speech below.