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Chris Rock Says He Turned Down Invite to Host 2023 Oscars After Will Smith Slap

The comedian told a crowd in Phoenix that returning to the Oscars stage would be like asking Nicole Brown Simpson “to go back to the restaurant”

Chris Rock told a crowd in Phoenix on Sunday that he was asked to host the Oscars ceremony for next year after he infamously was slapped by Will Smith during the show, but that he turned the invitation down.

Rock joked during his stand-up set, according to the Arizona Republic, that returning to the Oscars stage would be like returning to the scene of a crime. And he made a reference to the OJ Simpson murder trial, saying that it would be like asking Nicole Brown Simpson “to go back to the restaurant.”

Rock also said he has since been offered the chance to appear in a Super Bowl commercial but also turned down that request.

A representative for the Film Academy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rock has twice hosted the Oscars, first in 2005 and then again in 2016, which came up just as the Academy was grappling with the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. ABC’s president of entertainment Craig Erwich said in an interview with Deadline earlier this month that the network would be open to having Rock host the ceremony again, and new Academy president Bill Kramer has indicated that the Academy does want to have a host for next year’s ceremony, which takes place on March 12. But it will be some time before any producers or show hosts are announced for the occasion.

While Rock has generally avoided discussing Smith’s slap during his ongoing stand-up tour, he briefly addressed it on stage in Phoenix Sunday when someone in the crowd called out for Rock to “talk about it.” The Arizona Republic says that Rock acknowledged the slap from Smith hurt and that it wasn’t lost on him that Smith once portrayed Muhammad Ali in a biopic.

“He’s bigger than me,” Rock said. “The state of Nevada would not sanction a fight between me and Will Smith.”

Smith late last month posted an emotional apology video, which some criticized for being a pre-taped production rather than a sit down with a journalist. In it, he said he reached out to Rock and received a message in return only that Rock will reach out when he’s ready to talk.

“I apologize to you, my behavior was unacceptable, and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk,” the “King Richard” actor said in his video. “There is no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment. There is no part of me that thinks that’s the optimal way to handle a feeling of disrespect or insult.”

Rock, however, indirectly responded in a separate stage show shortly after the apology was posted, saying, “Everybody is trying to be a f—ing victim. If everybody claims to be a victim, then nobody will hear the real victims.”

Smith during the Oscars earlier this year walked onto the stage and slapped Rock after the comedian joked that Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who has alopecia, should star in a “G.I. Jane” sequel due to her closely shaved head. He then twice shouted from his seat, “Keep my wife’s name out your f—ing mouth.”

As a result, Smith was banned from the Oscars for 10 years, and Smith also resigned from his Academy membership, though his Oscar was not revoked and he won’t be restricted from being eligible for future awards.