The shortest and most startling moment from Sunday’s Academy Awards may stick in people’s minds far longer than any other from the night — and it certainly lingered during the rest of the ceremony.

It took just seconds for Will Smith to unexpectedly walk up on stage during the show and interrupt presenter Chris Rock’s introduction of Best Documentary with a smack across Rock’s face.

Smith hit the comedian immediately after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, potentially being in a G.I. Jane sequel.

The actress and Red Table Talk host, 50, has been embracing a bald hairstyle because she suffers from the autoimmune disorder alopecia, which attacks follicles resulting in bald spots and hair loss.

Smith striking Rock sparked a brief but heated exchange between the two men, with Rock still onstage and Smith back in his seat in the audience.

But even as the show went on, many in the audience continued to talk about what had happened. Rock himself seemed to still be processing it during a subsequent speech and Smith somewhat indirectly addressed his behavior during his own acceptance for Best Actor.

Here’s how the altercation and its aftermath unfolded in the room.

The incident was seemingly touched off when Rock joked to Pinkett Smith in the audience: “Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see ya.”

(In 2018, Pinkett Smith opened up about her “issues with hair loss” during an episode of Red Table Talk, explaining, “It was terrifying when it first started. I was in the shower one day and had just handfuls of hair in my hands and I was just like, ‘Oh my god, am I going bald?’ “)

Smith, 53, initially laughed from his seat at Rock’s joke while Pinkett Smith, 50, looked visibly unimpressed.

Shortly after, however, Smith’s mood changed as he walked up to Rock and struck him across the face with an open hand.

“Oh wow,” said a taken-aback Rock as Smith made his way back to his seat.

“Will Smith just smacked the s— out of me,” Rock said.

According to an onlooker in the room in the Dolby Theatre, “Everyone in the mezzanine was standing up to see what was going on — everyone shocked. You could hear a pin drop. Everyone was looking at each other like, ‘Is this really happening?’ ”

“Chris Rock looked stunned,” the onlooker added.

“I thought it was a skit!” CODA actress Emilia Jones later said to her date in total disbelief during a commercial as she left the auditorium for a bathroom break.

It was not.

“Keep my wife’s name out your f—— mouth!” Smith yelled up to the stage at Rock after taking his seat again.

“Wow, dude, it was a G.I. Jane joke,” said Rock — to which Smith replied once again, “Keep my wife’s name out your f—— mouth!”

“I’m going to, okay?” Rock replied, before going on to say, “That was the … greatest night in the history of television” and presenting the documentary award.

The Questlove-directed Summer of Soul won and Rock was seen standing behind Questlove making several expressions — as though still working through his emotions from the smack — during the latter’s acceptance speech.

Questlove later told reporters he wouldn’t be addressing the conflict and instead echoed his gratitude for the win: “We’re very happy to accept this award.”

Diddy briefly touched on what happened when he came out to introduce a Godfather anniversary segment after Rock left the stage.

“Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this like family. Right now we’re moving on with love,” he said.

After Smith struck Rock, Bradley Cooper, Tyler Perry and Denzel Washington could all be seen conferring with the King Richard star.

Photos from the room show that Cooper, 47, had his hand on Smith’s shoulder, while the actor-rapper had his hand lightly touching Cooper’s waist.

Cooper and Smith ended their interaction with a hug. Perry, 52, and Washington, 67, also spoke with Smith.

While Rock had continued to present the award for Best Documentary Feature, Cooper, Perry and Washington took turns consulting with Smith, who was also seen in close discussions with a member of his team. At one point Smith’s rep spoke with his wife, too.

According to an insider, Washington “did not acknowledge Chris Rock”; rather he “said something to Will and went back to his seat.”

After giving the moment some time to breathe, Smith and Pinkett Smith held hands over the bistro table between their seats at the front of the auditorium.

Later during Smith’s acceptance speech, he said that Washington told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

Oscars co-host Amy Schumer was the first to attempt to lighten the mood of the night when she poked fun at the slap during a late-in-show segment that also riffed on an earlier bit involving dress-up.

“I’ve been getting out of that Spider-Man costume. Did I miss anything?” said the comedian, who co-hosted the Oscars with Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes.

“There’s like, a different vibe in here …,” she added.

Smith returned to the stage one more time during the show, to accept his Best Actor award for King Richard, a biographical drama about Serena and Venus Williams’ father.

Smith received widespread applause in the room and then spoke emotionally — if obliquely — about how he views family and fame.

“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, and you gotta smile and pretend like that’s okay,” he said.

Through tears, he said, “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.”

He compared himself to his King Richard character, who was a “fierce defender of his family.”

Smith also shared that Washington told him minutes before his win that “at your highest moments, be careful because that’s when the devil comes for you.”

Smith then addressed the incident directly, offering an apology to the academy and his fellow actors for the incident — but failed to mention Rock.

“I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees,” he said.

Smith joked, “Art imitates life: I look like the crazy father. Just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things.”

He later added, “Being able to love and care for my mother and my family, my wife … Thank you for this honor. Thank you for this moment. … I hope the Academy invites me back.”

[Read More…]