He scored the award for his career-making turn in “King Richard.”
“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” he said, moments after the wild scene.
“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 was one of the most strongest, most delicate people I ever met. I got to protect Saniyya (Sidney) and Demi (Singleton), 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.”
Smith also said he had to suffer disrespect in his career. “You gotta smile you gotta pretend like that’s ok,” he said.
He continued: “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 that that’s ok.”
He also noted that Denzel Washington gave him sound advice after the punch.
“Denzel (Washington) said to me at the highest moment, be careful — that’s when the devil comes for you. It’s like, I want to be a vessel for love.”
The rest of his speech got even more emotional.
“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 of 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 … Art imitates life; I looked like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things. … Being able to love and care for my mother, my family, my wife … thank you for this honor, thank you for this moment. Thank you; hoping the academy invites me back.”
He battled against Andrew Garfield, Benedict Cumberbatch, Denzel Washington and Javier Bardem.
Washington was nominated for his role in “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” while Cumberbatch won a nod for “The Power of the Dog.”
Garfield showed off his singing chops in Netflix’s “Tick, Tick … BOOM” and Smith wowed fans with his role in “King Richard.” He also stunned when he hit Chris Rock, who seemed to joke about Jada Pinkett Smith being bald.
Bardem’s portrayal of Desi Arnaz in “Being the Ricardos” achieved recognition this awards season.
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Viewers were excited when Smith, 53, racked up Oscar noms for 2001’s “Ali” and 2006’s “The Pursuit of Happyness.”
The in-person event aired on ABC from Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre on March 27. Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes hosted Sunday night’s festivities.