Updated as of 2 p.m. ET: Less than one hour after we initially told you that the Academy released a statement on Wednesday revealing that they allegedly asked Will Smith to leave the ceremony following the slap incident, new information is now calling that statement into question.
Per Variety, a handful of additional sources close to the situation say that there were allegedly mixed messages sent on behalf of both members of the Academy and the show’s producer, Will Packer. Some members felt that Smith should be removed in the immediate aftermath but that there was no “formal or explicit” ask for him to do so. However, one source contradicted that perspective by alleging that a call was made from Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson to an on-site representative asking Smith to leave.
Perhaps even more interesting is that an additional source said that show producer Will Packer also met with Smith in the minutes after the slap and, before he was announced for Best Actor, said that he and the production team “officially” wanted him to stay for the remainder of the show. A different source, however, is refuting that claim. Neither Packer, Smith, nor the Academy’s camp has commented on this development.
What is apparent is that Smith was immediately consoled by Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry in the moments following the incident.
See the original story below:
Chris Rock is breaking his silence and addressing the now infamous Will Smith slap incident at this year’s Academy Awards.
At the opening of his sold out comedy show at Boston’s Wilbur Theatre on Wednesday night, the comedian was met with a standing ovation from the crowd before he began his routine.
“How was your weekend?” he quipped according to Variety. “Umm, I don’t have like a bunch of shit about what happened. So if you came to hear that—I had like a whole show I wrote before this weekend. And I’m still kind of processing what happened. So at some point I’ll talk about that shit. And it’ll be serious and it’ll be funny, but right now I’m going to tell some jokes. So I’m gonna start the show, it’s nice to just be out.”
Just ahead of the show, the Academy also put out a second a statement sent to The Root, addressing what happened and noted that they’d “initiated disciplinary proceedings” against Smith and revealed that the King Richard star was allegedly asked to leave the ceremony after the slap but refused:
The Board of Governors today initiated disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith for violations of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, including inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behavior, and compromising the integrity of the Academy.
Consistent with the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, as well as California law, Mr. Smith is being provided at least 15 days’ notice of a vote regarding his violations and sanctions, and the opportunity to be heard beforehand by means of a written response. At the next board meeting on April 18, the Academy may take any disciplinary action, which may include suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions permitted by the Bylaws and Standards of Conduct.
Mr. Smith’s actions at the 94th Oscars were a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness in-person and on television. Mr. Rock, we apologize to you for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience in that moment. We also apologize to our nominees, guests and viewers for what transpired during what should have been a celebratory event.
Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated. While we would like to clarify that Mr. Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognize we could have handled the situation differently.
The latter revelation is interesting considering the fact that on Monday, insiders close to the situation told both CNN and People that the decision to remove Smith afterwards was “strongly considered,” but ultimately they could not make a move in time before the next category, in which Smith ultimately won, was announced.
“Academy leadership strongly considered removing Will Smith from last night’s broadcast following the incident. There were immediate discussions but the Academy decision makers were seated in various spots in the Dolby Theater and couldn’t mobilize to make a decision before he won Best Actor,” the source said to CNN.
“Behind the scenes there were a lot of people, and different voices and bifurcated opinions, weighing in on what had just happened and what was the best and quickest course of action. People were also checking that Chris Rock was okay,” another source told People. “Basically there were just minutes to first figure out if it was a stunt and then try and get people on the same page—including the producers, ABC, the Academy, reps who were not all in the same place or all looking at their phones in real time, and even to see if Chris wanted to press charges. Having Will removed was definitely discussed seriously. You can’t plan for something like this and make a split-second decision that needs everyone’s buy-in, and in any iteration that would have consequences.”
Additionally, as noted by Variety, in the immediate aftermath ABC producer Rob Mills explained that they were also unaware of any discussions to remove Smith, and that the decision from inside the control room was to keep the show going.
“This was a real almost billion to one moment where the person involved in this incident was the probable winner for Best Actor. So it’s just a scenario you don’t really know and you just got to keep the show going in the meantime and then obviously, AMPAS will address this afterwards, in the post mortem.”
Mills also clarified that Rock’s joke about Jada Pinkett-Smith was an ad-lib and not included in the original script of jokes.