There have been conflicting accounts of what went down in the wake of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock during Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony. On Wednesday, it was reported that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences had actually requested that Smith leave before eventually accepting his Best Actor award for King Richard and that he refused to do so.
However, it turns out that may not have been accurate, as sources close to the situation told Variety that the 53-year-old actor was never formally asked to leave the show. Apparently, there was a lapse in communication between the Academy and the show’s producer, Will Packer, who sent “mixed messages” about whether Smith should be removed.
That description of events doesn’t sit well with a few individuals with knowledge of the fraught minutes following the Rock slap. They claim that some Academy members expressed that they wanted Smith removed, but they also say that no formal or explicit ask was ever made. Another person familiar with the Academy said that Smith was asked to leave through an on-site representative. That call was made by Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson, who, a source says, asked for Smith to leave the show instead of remaining in the auditorium for the rest of the telecast.
Packer, in particular, allegedly was “key” in ensuring that Smith stayed, as two witnesses saw him personally walk into the orchestra and have a conversation with Smith roughly 30 minutes after the altercation occurred. One witness claims that Packer told Smith that the production “officially” wanted him to stay for the remainder of the show, while another source close to the producer denied that series of events.
In any event, regardless of whether Smith was encouraged to stay or leave, we probably haven’t heard the end of this saga. The Academy likewise released a statement on Wednesday that stated disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against Smith and that his actions may lead to “suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions” from the institution.
Smith has since apologized for striking Rock, which he did after the comedian made a G.I. Jane joke in reference to his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head. Pinkett Smith has been open about her struggles with alopecia, the autoimmune disorder which causes patchy balding in women.