Dame Judi Dench was at the Oscars during the Chris Rock and Will Smith slap incident. She explains how everyone initially reacted

It may not have been as widely discussed as it was right after that, but the slap in the face of Chris Rock and Will Smith at the Oscars is still reflected in some conversations. Most recently, this topic was raised in an interview with Dame Judi Dench, who experienced the hype as a nominee this year in pursuit of the best Oscar film. Her view of the situation is most interesting, as Dench said that she and her colleagues were just as confused about what was happening at the moment as the viewers watching at home.
In an interview with The Times (opens in new tab), Dame Judy recalled the infamous situation that developed in front of the crowd. One of the nominees for the 2022 Academy Award for her role in Kenneth Branagh’s film Belfast, her presence allowed her to observe and thus retell the following:
We thought it was a joke. Everything is done. [Then] “Oh, it’s not a joke. This year it was just endless — in fact it was good.
Remembering that fateful night at the Oscars, there was a time when it seemed that Will Smith’s appearance on stage could have led to a more comedic moment on the air. Smith and Chris Rock are well—known comedic talents who know how to think on the go, so hardly anyone expected violence. It was a fleeting glimpse as the world learned of both Rock’s slap in the face and Will Smith’s immediate, heated reaction.
As soon as reality came, comedians and show business figures offered a reaction to what happened between Will Smith and Chris Rock. Meanwhile, Rock spoke in detail about the slap, refusing to fully understand the situation until he was paid for such an examination. Given the point we’re at with this question and its place in pop culture, it’s almost like looking into another reality when you’re portraying Dame Judi Dench and the Oscar audience processing events in real time.
While the slap itself may not have been a joke, Chris Rock certainly laughs at the whole thing. Friend and fellow tour member Marlon Wayans admitted that slap jokes were told and prepared backstage at their current concerts, with Wayans claiming that at least an hour of material dedicated to this was written on his part. At the moment, these jokes are kept behind closed doors, so even Judi Dench will have to wait to see what happens next.
In the meantime, you can rent or buy Belfast and watch the performance thanks to which Dame Judy received her latest nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Or, if you’re interested in revisiting her role in the James Bond legacy, Amazon Prime subscribers can stream all but one of her appearances in the franchise.