BAFTA host Richard E Grant referenced Will Smith’s infamous slap at last year’s Oscars, as he opened the 2023 ceremony in London.

The British actor told audiences that “on my watch no one gets slapped tonight” as he concluded his humorous remarks at the top of the show.

Smith stormed onto the stage during the 94th annual Academy Awards in March and slapped presenter Chris Rock after the comedian made a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith.

The actor, who went on to win the coveted best actor Oscar moments later, was later banned from all Academy events for the next 10 years and resigned from the organisation.

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Speaking at the Baftas, Grant said that the only slaps being received on Sunday would be “on the back”.

“What a great year to be hosting the Baftas,” he said.

“In 2022, movie audiences were well and truly back and there has never been a better time to go to the cinema until right now.”

He added: “Well, not right now, I’m trying my best and nobody on my watch gets slapped tonight… except on the back.”

Grant also used the speech to seek work from the industry, reading out a comical resume and adding that his availability was “free from one minute past nine this evening”.

“To each and everyone here tonight, I want you to know that my favourite film of the year is whichever one you made – it really touched me in a way that none of the others did,” he joked.

At the ceremony Grant also became emotional and struggled to hold back tears as he introduced the in memoriam section of the Bafta ceremony to remember those in the film industry who died in the last 12 months.

His wife Joan Washington, a voice coach to celebrities including Penelope Cruz and Jessica Chastain, died in September 2021 after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Grant said “their impact lives on in film” before names include Dame Angela Lansbury, Dame Olivia Newton-John, Sylvia Syms, Robbie Coltrane and Burt Bacharach appeared on screen.

After the segment, Grant added that “their legacies will live on”.