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The president and the CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sent a letter to members Tuesday saying they were outraged that the behavior of Will Smith overshadowed the Oscars “celebration” and that the board would make a decision on appropriate consequences for the actor, though it could take a few weeks.
A formal review was initiated after the officers of the Academy’s board of governors convened for an emergency call about the King Richard actor, who walked onstage during the live telecast Sunday and slapped Rock after the comedian made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The investigation will explore whether any further action is required, in accordance with the Academy’s Standards of Conduct and California law.
Tuesday’s letter, which was signed by Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson and distributed to the organization’s members, indicated that the 94th Oscars was “meant to be a celebration of the many individuals in our community who did incredible work in the past year.” Instead, they wrote, those moments were “overshadowed by the unacceptable and harmful behavior on stage by a nominee.”
Following the physical confrontation, Smith proceeded to yell at Rock from his seat in the audience: “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.” Rock, who had made a G.I. Jane joke about Pinkett Smith — a reference to her shaved head (the actress has been vocal about her diagnosis of alopecia) — appeared visibly shaken, but continued to present the best documentary award as the evening went on.
Not long after, Smith won the best actor Oscar for his role as Richard Williams, the father of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams, in King Richard, and apologized to the Academy and fellow nominees in his emotional acceptance speech — though he did not mention Rock.
Rubin and Hudson reiterated that the Academy still condemns Smith’s actions, as noted in a previous statement. “As outlined in our bylaws, the Academy’s Board of Governors will now make a determination on appropriate action for Mr. Smith,” the letter sent Tuesday reads. “As governed by California law regarding members of nonprofit organizations like the Academy, and set forth in our Standards of Conduct, this must follow an official process that will take a few weeks.”
Former Academy president Sid Ganis is among the members who have weighed in on the controversy, saying that he feels it’s not the board’s place to sanction Smith. “I think those are two men who had a real disagreement, and it’s up to them, not to the Academy, not to any of us,” he told The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg. Actors branch member Rutanya Alda disagreed, however. “I think security should have escorted him out immediately instead of letting him sit there spewing unacceptable language at Chris Rock,” she asserted. “Someone else should have accepted his award. Why did he get a pass?”
The moment between Smith and Rock has already become the subject of late night television commentary, while a number of stars, from Mia Farrow to Jim Carrey to Rob Reiner, have condemned Smith’s behavior.
Read the full letter from the Academy below.
Sunday’s telecast of the 94th Oscars was meant to be a celebration of the many individuals in our community who did incredible work this past year. We are upset and outraged that those moments were overshadowed by the unacceptable and harmful behavior on stage by a nominee.
To be clear, we condemn Mr. Smith’s actions that transpired Sunday night.
As outlined in our bylaws, the Academy’s Board of Governors will now make a determination on appropriate action for Mr. Smith. As governed by California law regarding members of nonprofit organizations like the Academy, and set forth in our Standards of Conduct, this must follow an official process that will take a few weeks.
We will continue to update you on any developments, but we also ask that you respect your Board, Academy staff and the process as this unfolds so it can work in the considered way it was intended and mandated.
Please trust that the Board of Governors will conduct this process in a manner that is both expedient and respectful of all involved while maintaining the standards of the Academy.
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