Halle Berry Presents Best Actress to Michelle Yeoh in Will Smith's Absence at Oscars 2023

Smith was banned from attending Academy events for 10 years after smacking Chris Rock in the face at last year's Oscars

Halle Berry Presents Best Actress in Will Smith's Absence at Oscars 2023
Photo: Rich Polk/Variety via Getty, Nicky J Sims/Getty

Halle Berry is passing on the torch at the Oscars 2023.

The Bruised director and star, 56, — who previously won Best Actress for her role in 2001's Monster's Ball — took the stage at Sunday's 95th Academy Awards alongside Jessica Chastain to present the same trophy to Michelle Yeoh for her role in Everything Everywhere All at Once.

Berry and Yeoh hugged it out on stage at the Dolby Theater as Berry handed the Oscar winner her trophy in something of a deviation from typical Oscars protocol. The award is usually presented by the previous year's Best Actor winner, but last year, Will Smith won for his role in King Richard.

Smith, 54, resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — which also banned him from attending its events for 10 years — after he infamously struck Chris Rock in the face onstage, after Rock made a joke about Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

Berry made no mention of Smith, nor the controversy surrounding last year's Oscars ceremony, as she presented the award to Yeoh on Sunday.

PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 09: Chris Rock of 'Fargo' attends the FX Networks' Star Walk Winter Press Tour 2020 at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 09, 2020 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images); HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 27: (L-R) Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith attend the 94th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on March 27, 2022 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
Chris Rock; Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty; David Livingston/Getty

The ceremony comes just over a week after Rock, 58, addressed the assault in his live Netflix comedy special Chris Rock: Selective Outrage, peppering it with scathing jokes about the Smiths and their marriage.

"He said what he needed to say and doesn't give a s--- about the reaction either way. He isn't worried," a source told PEOPLE of the comedian. "For the most part, I think it was well received. People don't expect sugarcoating from Chris Rock."

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Among those who criticized Rock's remarks specifically about Jada, 51, is #OscarsSoWhite creator April Reign. She shared a clip from the special and tweeted that Rock never said Jada's name directly — referring to Smith telling Rock to "keep my wife's name out your f---ing mouth" at the Oscars last year.

"But he did call her a b*tch, and that seems just as bad, if not worse. TO ME," said Reign.

Reign also addressed the location of Rock's show, alleging in a separate tweet, "He knew what he was doing. It wasn't weird, but intentional. Chris could've picked (and sold out) any city in America. He wanted to be in Jada's hometown."

RELATED VIDEO: Jada Pinkett Smith "Had No Part" in Chris Rock and Will Smith's Drama, Says Source

As for Berry, her 2002 Oscar win saw her victorious in a Best Actress category that also included Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge), Judi Dench (Iris), Sissy Spacek (In the Bedroom) and Renée Zellweger (Bridget Jones's Diary).

Before Berry handed Yeoh the trophy on Sunday, the Monster's Ball star was only woman of color to win Best Actress in the history of the awards show. In March 2022, Berry opened up to The New York Times about her disappointment in how, after two decades, no other Black actress had received the title.

"Back in those days, if you didn't win the Globe, you really didn't get the Academy Award," Berry said, referring to the Golden Globe that went to Spacek, 73. "So I'd pretty much resigned myself to believing, 'It's great to be here, but I'm not going to win.' "

But even though she did go on to clinch the prize, the actress continued, "It didn't open the door. The fact that there's no one standing next to me is heartbreaking."

The Oscars are airing live on ABC on Sunday, March 12, at 8 p.m. ET.

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