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Will Smith was not formally asked to leave the Oscars ceremony Sunday after slapping Chris Rock onstage, contrary to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences saying he was, sources close to the situation told The Hollywood Reporter.
Instead, the sources said Academy leadership spoke with Smith’s reps backstage following the incident about potentially asking Smith to leave the Dolby Theatre.
A rep then went out to speak with Smith about the matter, but didn’t relay any kind of official edict, according to the two sources who spoke Thursday to THR on condition of anonymity. However, Oscars producer Will Packer came out around the same time and said Smith should stay. There was never a chance for Smith to “refuse” to leave, the insiders said, nor did anyone in the Academy directly speak to the actor about such a request.
Reps for Smith couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Reps for Packer and reps for the Academy declined to comment Thursday. A day earlier, the Academy issued a statement saying Smith was asked to leave the show following the slap, but that he refused. The statement didn’t provide details, but did say they also “recognize we could have handled the situation differently.”
Packer will address the situation in an interview airing Friday on ABC’s Good Morning America and GMA3, with a teaser airing on Thursday’s World News Tonight.
On Wednesday, after a meeting of its full board of governors, the Academy announced it had begun disciplinary proceedings against Smith. He could face suspension, expulsion or other sanctions if the board chooses to take action at the next scheduled meeting April 18, the Academy’s statement said.
During yesterday’s board meeting, one board member told THR that it still wasn’t made clear who asked Smith to leave, or what the sequence of events was. Board members are awaiting further clarity.
Rock was presenting best documentary feature at the 2022 Oscars on Sunday when he made a G.I. Jane joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who has a shaved head (the actress has alopecia). After Smith walked up onstage and slapped Rock, he returned to his seat and shouted at the presenter to take his wife’s name out of his “fucking mouth.” Smith later went on to win the best actor award for his performance in King Richard. While receiving his first-ever Oscar, he apologized to the Academy and fellow nominees; he did not, however, mention Rock.
Following many condemnations, including from the Academy, Smith took to Instagram on Monday to apologize to Rock. “Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable.”
THR‘s awards columnist Scott Feinberg has spoken to numerous Academy members since the show Sunday who said the organization should at the very least suspend Smith’s membership, citing the group’s Standards of Conduct implemented eight weeks after Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misdeeds were exposed. And almost none said Smith should return to the Oscars show next year to carry out the ceremonial tradition whereby the previous year’s best actor presents the best actress award.
Rock made his first public appearance Wednesday night at his comedy show in Boston, but he didn’t share much on the topic of the slap. “I’m still kind of processing what happened,” Rock told the audience.
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