Will Smith Resigns from Academy & Producer of the show, Will Packer speaks out!
Written by torresanz on April 1, 2022
Will Smith, who slapped the comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars, said Friday that he was resigning from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, saying that he had “betrayed” its trust with conduct that was “shocking, painful, and inexcusable.”
The sudden announcement came late Friday afternoon, days after the Academy had condemned Mr. Smith’s actions and opened an inquiry into the incident.
“I have directly responded to the Academy’s disciplinary hearing notice, and I will fully accept any and all consequences for my conduct,” he said in a statement on Friday.
“I deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work,” he said in the statement. “I am heartbroken.”
He said that he would “accept any further consequences the board deems appropriate.”
“Change takes time,” he concluded, “and I am committed to doing the work to ensure that I never again allow violence to overtake reason.”
The academy said that it accepted his resignation.
“We have received and accepted Mr. Will Smith’s immediate resignation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,” David Rubin, its president, said in a statement. “We will continue to move forward with our disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith for violations of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, in advance of our next scheduled board meeting on April 18.”
Now that he has resigned, Mr. Smith will no longer have access to academy screenings and events. He will also not be able to vote in the Academy Awards. However, he could still be nominated for an award, since being a member is not a requirement for eligibility.
Mr. Smith’s resignation came roughly 12 hours after Will Packer, the lead producer of the Oscars telecast, spoke publicly about the episode for the first time.
In an interview with “Good Morning America” on ABC, the network which also broadcasts the Oscars, Mr. Packer said that after Mr. Smith had been asked to leave the ceremony, he urged the Academy leadership not to “physically remove” him from the theater in the middle of the live broadcast.
Mr. Packer said he had learned from his co-producer, Shayla Cowan, that there were discussions of plans to “physically remove” Mr. Smith from the venue. So he said he immediately approached academy officials and told them that he believed Mr. Rock did not want to “make a bad situation worse.”
“I was advocating what Rock wanted in that time, which was not to physically remove Will Smith at that time,” Mr. Packer said. “Because as it has now been explained to me, that was the only option at that point. It has been explained to me that there was a conversation that I was not a part of to ask him to voluntarily leave.”
EXCLUSIVE: #Oscars producer Will Packer tells Good Morning America about the frenetic aftermath of actor Will Smith slapping host Chris Rock live on stage on Hollywood’s biggest night. https://t.co/AeoYcGkM32 pic.twitter.com/8z35t8TPFw
— Good Morning America (@GMA) April 1, 2022
In the interview, Mr. Packer also said that Mr. Rock’s joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair was unscripted “free-styling.”
“He didn’t tell one of the planned jokes,” he said of Mr. Rock.
Someone close to Mr. Rock who asked to speak anonymously because the Academy’s inquiry into the incident is ongoing said that Mr. Rock was never asked directly if he wanted Mr. Smith removed. Had he been asked, it was not clear how Mr. Rock would have responded, the person said. Mr. Rock was only asked if he wanted to press charges, and he said that he did not, the person said.
Mr. Packer said that, like many viewers at home, he had originally thought the slap might be part of an unplanned comedic bit, and that he was not entirely sure until he spoke with Mr. Rock backstage that Mr. Smith had actually hit the comedian.
“I just took a punch from Muhammad Ali,” Mr. Packer recalled Mr. Rock telling him.
Mr. Packer said that Mr. Smith reached out and apologized to him the morning after the Oscars. And he praised Mr. Rock for having kept his cool. “Chris was keeping his head when everyone else was losing theirs,” he said.
“I’ve never felt so immediately devastated,” Mr. Packer said of the incident.
Asked if, after hearing Mr. Smith’s acceptance speech, he wished that the actor had left the ceremony, Mr. Packer said that he did, noting that Mr. Smith had not used his remarks to express real contrition and apologize to Mr. Rock.
“If he wasn’t going to give that speech which made it truly better, then yes, yes,” Mr. Packer said when asked if he wished Mr. Smith had left the ceremony. “Because now you don’t have the optics of somebody who committed this act, didn’t nail it in terms of a conciliatory acceptance speech in that moment, who then continued to be in the room.”
Mr. Smith did not apologize to Mr. Rock until Monday evening, after the Academy had condemned his actions and initiated disciplinary proceedings against him. Mr. Packer’s comments came after days of questions about why Mr. Smith had seemed to face no repercussions for striking a presenter on live television.
The academy said in a statement earlier this week that Mr. Smith had been asked to leave the awards ceremony following the slap, but had remained. Then several publications questioned that account, citing anonymous sources, and reported that Mr. Packer had suggested he stay.
Shortly after the ceremony ended Sunday, the Los Angeles Police Department issued a statement saying that the person who had been slapped had “declined to file a police report.”
In the interview, Mr. Packer described his recollection of law enforcement’s involvement.
“They were saying, this is battery, we will go get him,” Mr. Packer said in the interview. “We’re prepared to get him right now. You can press charges. We can arrest him.”
“Chris was being very dismissive of those options,” Mr. Packer continued. “He was like, ‘No, I’m fine.’ He was like, ‘No, no, no.’”
Both on Sunday night and in subsequent interviews this week, the Los Angeles police have maintained that Mr. Smith’s slap qualified as misdemeanor battery under California law — and that as a misdemeanor, officers cannot take action unless the victim in the case files charges, which Mr. Rock did not do.
In an interview on Thursday, Deputy Chief Blake Chow, of the Los Angeles Police Department’s West Bureau, described the department’s role in less dramatic terms. At the Oscars, police officers are primarily responsible for patrolling outside the Dolby Theater and the Academy hires a security company to handle issues inside the building, he said.
On Sunday, one police captain was stationed backstage as a liaison, the deputy chief said. The police captain inside did not observe the slap himself; but he quickly became aware of it, the deputy chief added. The police captain made contact with a representative for Mr. Rock shortly after the comedian had finished presenting an award and had returned backstage with his team, Deputy Chief Chow said.
The representative communicated “Chris Rock’s wishes” that he did not want to press charges or file a police report, the deputy chief said. “He didn’t want to do anything.”
The police department was not asked to escort Mr. Smith out of the venue, and even if the police had been asked to do that, such a request would not have fallen within the department’s purview, the deputy chief said.
Detectives followed up on Monday with Mr. Rock’s representatives to ensure that he still did not want to take action. He reaffirmed that he did not, the deputy chief said.
Mr. Rock made his first public comments about the incident on Wednesday at a comedy show in Boston. “I’m still kind of processing what happened,” Mr. Rock said, while promising to discuss the episode in greater depth later. “It’ll be serious, it’ll be funny, but I’d love to — I’m going to tell some jokes.”
After nominating only white actors and actresses for its awards in 2015, drawing widespread criticism, the academy did it again the next year — overlooking performances like the one Mr. Smith gave in “Concussion.” At the time, Ms. Pinkett Smith was outspoken about what many people saw as an urgent need for the academy to become more inclusive. Smith was less pointed in his criticism, but joined her in a boycott of the ceremony, drawing attention to the #OscarsSoWhite movement.