From exes facing off in court to the slap heard ’round the world, here are 2022’s biggest celebrity scandals

American Age Official
The celebrities who dominated entertainment headlines in 2022: Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, Will Smith and Chris Rock, Ezra Miller. (Photos: Getty Images / Illustration: Maayan Pearl)

The celebrities who dominated entertainment headlines in 2022: Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, Will Smith and Chris Rock, Ezra Miller. (Photos: Getty Images / Illustration: Maayan Pearl)

Celebrities behaving badly is nothing new, but absolutely no one saw “the slap” coming from one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Will Smith. The Oscar winner publicly apologized for his behavior multiple times — unlike Kanye West. The rapper finally pushed things too far this year with antisemitic remarks he has refused to walk back. Other stories that dominated the entertainment news cycle this year were Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s wild defamation trial, Angelina Jolie resurfacing abuse allegations against Brad Pitt, and the absolutely bonkers Don’t Worry Darling press tour, among many others. Here is a recap of the year’s most scandalous celebrity moments.

Will Smith slaps Chris Rock at the Oscars

It was supposed to be Smith’s night — and it was — but not for the reason the King Richard star hoped. Shortly before winning the award for Best Actor, the superstar’s first Oscar, he stunned viewers by storming the stage and slapping Chris Rock across the face. Rock, who was there to present an award, made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair and the actor felt the need to defend his wife. (Jada suffers from alopecia, a hair loss condition.) Will didn’t publicly apologize to the comedian until the next day and essentially went into hiding for months. The Academy banned the actor from official events, including the Oscars, for 10 years. Although Smith has repeatedly apologized for the incident, it doesn’t appear he and Rock have made up.

Bruce Willis retires from showbiz

The Die Hard star’s family announced in March that he had been diagnosed with aphasia, a condition where a person loses the ability to communicate, and would be retiring. That day, the Los Angeles Times published a report in which nearly two dozen people who had been on set with Willis in recent years (for mostly straight-to-VOD movies), expressed concern about his well-being. Among the claims was that Willis unexpectedly fired a gun loaded with a blank on the wrong cue on the set of Hard Kill — a claim denied by the producer and armorer. Other set sources claimed he often seemed confused, once asking, “Why am I here?” A subsequent story from the same outlet included claims that the action star had his lines fed to him in an earpiece and couldn’t kick open a door making 2021’s Midnight in the Switchgrass. Since his retirement, Willis’s family has been sharing glimpses of his life with fans, including jamming on his harmonica, biking with his daughters and celebrating Christmas with his blended family.

Hugh Hefner has his #MeToo moment

The Playboy founder died in September 2017, one month before #MeToo swept through Hollywood, but Hefner’s time came this year. The A&E documentary Secrets of Playboy exposed Hefner’s world at the Playboy Mansion and the publishing mogul was accused of some horrific behavior, like rape and bestiality. Hefner’s former girlfriends, including Holly Madison and Bridgett Marquardt, claimed the mansion was operated like a cult. Both Madison and Marquardt went on to lift the curtain some more in a new podcast breaking down their show Girls Next Door and they did not have flattering things to say about Hefner.

Ezra Miller’s erratic behavior captures headlines

The Flash star made waves this past spring with a pair of arrests in Hawaii, one for disorderly conduct and harassment and another time for assault. Months later, two protective orders were taken out by parents who claimed the actor acted inappropriately with their minor children in separate incidents. Various exposés have been written accusing Miller of cult-like behavior. In August the actor, who is non-binary, was charged with felony burglary in Vermont. All of their troubling behavior came as their biggest film to date, The Flash, finished production. As Warner Bros. weighed whether to continue with the film, Miller issued a statement saying they are seeking ongoing treatment for “complex” mental health issues. The highly anticipated film is on track to be released in 2023 and Miller has remained out of the spotlight — and headlines — in recent months.

The Don’t Worry Darling press tour debacle

There was drama around Olivia Wilde’s sophomore directing effort. For one, Wilde, off a split from Jason Sudeikis, started dating the film’s star Harry Styles. Would a male director doing the same get the same negative press? No. However, it made for a distraction from the Booksmart director’s work — and that was one of several. In the spring, Wilde was served legal papers by Sudeikis, amid a custody dispute, while she was presenting onstage at CinemaCon. Then, when the film’s trailer dropped, and heavily featured Styles and Florence Pugh sex scenes, Pugh expressed disappointment with the film’s marketing. Pugh skipped most press for the flick, but when she rolled in for the Venice Film Festival premiere (the aperol spritz!), it made for an awkward reunion as she and Wilde appeared to ignore each other. It only got worse when Styles was accused, via social media gossip, of spitting on co-star Chris Pine. (Pine denied it; Styles joked about it.) Also, Shia LaBeouf, who was initially supposed to play Styles’s character, got into a back and forth with Wilde over whether he was fired or quit. Even the crew weighed in on behind-the-scenes drama, disputing reports of an on-set screaming match between Wilde and Pugh. (All the controversy around the film did have one positive result: despite poor reviews curious fans came to theaters to see what the fuss was all about and the film had a strong opening weekend at the box office.) Two months after the film came out, Wilde and Styles broke up shortly after Wilde and Sudeikis’s nanny spilled details about their breakup (the salad recipe! Sudeikis under Wilde’s car!). It reinforced that the real-life drama around the film and its stars outshone the actual project.

Johnny Depp wins defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard after wild trial

A jury found that Heard defamed her ex-husband when she wrote a 2018 Washington Post op-ed. Although the Aquaman star never named Depp, she said she was the victim of physical and sexual violence. Two years prior, Heard publicly accused Depp of abuse, so it was inferred she was talking about him. The six-week trial was absolutely wild with Kate Moss even testifying for her ex-boyfriend. Each star took the stand and accused the other of physical and emotional assault. Depp won all three of his claims of defamation and was awarded more than $10 million. Although Heard won one of her counterclaims, the verdict was widely considered a big win for Depp. After initially appealing the verdict, Heard made a shocking announcement weeks later revealing she settled with Depp. The actress said the settlement is “not an act of concession” and “there are no restrictions or gags with respect to my voice moving forward.” Depp announced he’s donating the $1 million settlement to charity.

Britney Spears’s wedding crasher, family drama

2022 was supposed to be #FreedBritney’s year, but it was one of high-highs and low-lows. Weeks after suffering a miscarriage, the singer threw what was to be her fairy-tale wedding with Sam Asghari at her home in June. The day of, with prep underway, her first husband (of three days), Jason Alexander, trespassed, while live streaming, getting all the way to her locked bedroom. He was arrested, again, but it added to negativity around her big day, also including her teen sons, Preston and Jayden, announcing they wouldn’t be attending. The wedding was an odd affair in itself as many guests seemed to be people she didn’t really know or speak with often. She also slammed a report that her brother, Bryan, would be a guest, saying he was “NEVER invited.” Her comments about her sibling were in line with her muddled relationship with the Spears family. The star, who continues to find her voice after the conservatorship, also used Instagram to rage against her “scum” sister Jamie Lynn, who wrote about Britney’s alleged “spiraling” behavior in a memoir. The “Toxic” singer also responded to her sons and second husband, Kevin Federline, badmouthing her in an interview. She also came for her ex-conservator dad Jamie and mother Lynne on social media. Her feelings on her family seem to churn and change, and she has been revisiting a lot for her own memoir, in which she’ll really have her say.

The Chrisleys are convicted

As reality stars, Todd and Julie Chrisley relish the spotlight. It’s what they do for a living. But in 2022, they were buzzed about for all the wrong reasons, when they were convicted of bank fraud and tax evasion in June. (She received an additional conviction on a charge of obstruction of justice.) The Chrisley Knows Best stars insisted that they were innocent, and that they had been betrayed by a former employee, who was convicted of filing false corporate tax forms for them. However, a jury didn’t see it that way. They found the Chrisleys guilty of having inflated their net worth to secure loans and of dodging taxes, and they decided to send them to prison for 12 and seven years each, respectively. As the Chrisleys were sentenced, Yahoo Entertainment learned from a person familiar with the situation that some episodes of their show, which had been filmed before their trial, would air. However, the fate of that show and others involving the brood was unclear.

Brad Pitt and Angelina continue to battle it out — 6 years after breakup

New details about Brangelina’s infamous 2016 plane fight — after which she filed for divorce — emerged in a 53-page FBI report in August. In it, Jolie claimed an intoxicated Pitt grabbed her by the head and shook her and then pushed her into a bathroom wall aboard a private plane. Their kids — Maddox, 21, Pax, 19, Zahara, 17, Shiloh, 16, Knox and Vivienne, 14 — were present for the dispute during which Jolie claimed Pitt referred to one of the children as a “f***ing Columbine kid” and ranted that she was a bad parent. Jolie claimed Pitt caused $25,000 damage, splashing wine onto plane seats. Pitt sources denied he was physically abusive toward Jolie or their children. In October, Jolie detailed more of their flight fight in her lawsuit with Pitt over their French winery, Château Miraval. She claimed “Pitt choked one of the children and struck another in the face.” A source close to Pitt, who got sober after the plane incident, said Jolie “continues to rehash, revise and reimagine” the incident six years ago “by adding completely untrue information each time she fails to get what she wants.” Jolie was also revealed as the mystery plaintiff in an anonymous lawsuit filed against the FBI over the agency’s investigation of the flight when Pitt was cleared of allegations of child abuse. The kids will probably be parents themselves by the time this is all resolved.

Adam Levine apologizes for crossing “the line” with other women

The Maroon 5 frontman was accused of cheating on wife Behati Prinsloo, who is pregnant with their third kid, by an Instagram model. After she released alleged damaging messages, more women came forward and claimed Levine sent them explicit notes. Levine allegedly asked one of the women if he could name his unborn child after her. The singer issued a statement, and while he denied any physical affairs, he admitted to using “poor judgment in speaking with anyone other than my wife in ANY kind of flirtatious manner.” The Victoria’s Secret model stood by her husband and never publicly commented on the scandal.

James Corden’s bad restaurant behavior revealed

It all started in October when the host of The Late Late Show With James Corden was banned from trendy New York City restaurant Balthazar. Owner Keith McNally said publicly that he had done so because of the way that the “tiny Cretin of a man” treated his staff, citing two examples. In one, Corden berated a server because a “little bit of egg white mixed” into an egg yolk omelet ordered by Corden’s wife. McNally said the comedian was “the most abusive customer to my Balthazar servers since the restaurant opened 25 years ago.” Just one day later, though, McNally reversed the ban after he said Corden “apologized profusely,” but not before people began sharing on social media the negative interactions they’d allegedly had with Corden. The host ended up addressing the incident on his show, explaining that he has been so upset about the egg white because his wife has a food allergy, and that he regretted the incident. He later referred to the saga as “the most surreal moment.”

Kanye West won’t retract antisemitic comments

West, who legally changed his name to Ye, is no stranger to controversy. But this year was unlike anything fans — if he still has any — have seen before. It all started when Ye presented his Yeezy collection at Paris Fashion Week with models wearing “White Lives Matter” shirts. As he doubled down on the stance, Ye made several antisemitic remarks. His private Los Angeles school, the Donda Academy, was shuttered amid the fallout. Ye was suspended from social media, but upon his return, he continued to spew hateful rhetoric. He was dropped by brands like Balenciaga, Gap and more, but it was Adidas cutting ties that really hit his wallet and made him lose his billionaire status due to their Yeezy partnership. Ye claimed he lost $2 billion in one day and says he is now considered a pariah in the industry.

GMA3 co-hosts cuddle up off-camera

Turns out the chemistry between GMA3 co-hosts T.J. Holmes and Amy Robach extended off-screen. In late November, the tabloid Daily Mail ran PDA pictures of the co-anchors. It was subsequently revealed they had both separated from their spouses (hers: Melrose Place star Andrew Shue; his: attorney Marilee Fiebig) over the summer. ABC News execs pulled them from the air, saying while the relationship was “not a violation of company policy,” it was a distraction. A further distraction has been additional unconfirmed reports claiming Holmes had affairs with two other staffers. An “internal review” has been ongoing and neither Holmes or Robach has commented, but they’ve been photographed out together since, making it clear that they’re not hiding — or splitting.

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