The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has claimed it asked Will Smith to leave the Oscars ceremony on Sunday after he slapped Chris Rock. However, sources close to the situation refute that the actor was ever formally asked to leave the series. It seems that in the chaos surrounding the altercation, the Academy and the show’s producer sent a mixed message about whether Smith should be kicked out of the event.
In an update on pending disciplinary action against Smith on Wednesday, the organization said Smith “refused” to leave the Dolby Theater. He went on to win Best Actor for his performance in “King Richard” later that night.
This description of events does not sit well with a few people knowing the difficult minutes that followed Rock’s slap. They claim that some members of the Academy expressed that they wanted Smith removed, but they also say that no formal or explicit request was ever made. Another person familiar with the Academy said Smith was asked to leave through an on-site representative. That call came from Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson, who a source said asked Smith to leave the show instead of staying in the auditorium for the rest of diffusion.
The show’s producer, Will Packer, sources inside Dolby said, was key to keeping Smith in his seat. Within about 30 minutes of Smith’s attack on Rock, before the best actor award was presented, Packer entered the orchestra and spoke with Smith, according to two witnesses. Packer said he and production “officially” want Smith to stay for the rest of the show, according to one of the witnesses. Another source close to Packer denied that the producer urged Smith to stay.
Packer did not respond to requests for comment. Spokespersons for Smith and AMPAS declined to comment.
Several stars, including Denzel Washington, Tyler Perry and Bradley Cooper, were seen having close conversations with Smith at the theater during commercial breaks after the slap. Cooper hugged the upset actor, while Washington and Perry reportedly comforted him. No security personnel approached the actor.
When Smith accepted his award, his speech lasted several uninterrupted minutes, far longer than the time given to other recipients.
Smith assaulted Rock after the comedian made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved bald head, suggesting she was supposed to appear in “GI Jane 2.” Pinkett Smith said she suffered from hair loss due to alopecia. Smith apologized to Rock on Monday and said “a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.”
The Academy is investigating the incident. On Wednesday, the group said Smith faced “suspension, expulsion or other penalties” for his actions. The organization also apologized to Rock.
“Mr. Rock, we apologize for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience at this time,” the band said in a statement. “We also apologize to our nominees, guests and viewers for what happened at what should have been a celebratory event.”
Rock’s team was not contacted until the Academy’s statement was released on Wednesday. Another source claims it was the comedian’s first official apology after Sunday’s TV broadcast.