Entertainment

Will Smith refused to leave Oscars after Chris Rock slap, Academy says

The Academy has apologised to Rock and praised his ‘resilience in that moment'.

Oscar winner Will Smith was asked to leave the 94th annual awards show after slapping Chris Rock on stage, but refused, the Academy has said.

Smith, 53, won the leading actor gong for King Richard, but had stormed on stage prior to winning after reacting to a joke made by comedian Rock which referred to his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head.

A formal review into the incident has been launched to discuss what disciplinary measures will be taken, and Smith will reportedly be given the chance to provide a written defence before the Academy board meets again on April 18.

The Academy, whose board of governors met on Wednesday, said disciplinary action for Smith could include suspension, expulsion or other sanctions, and added in a statement: “Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated.

Oscars Chris Rock
Chris Rock, left, arrives at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston before a performance on Wednesday, March 30 (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

“While we would like to clarify that Mr Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognise we could have handled the situation differently.”

The Academy issued a statement on Sunday night following the incident, but on Wednesday added that Smith’s actions were “a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness in-person and on television”.

They added: “Mr Rock, we apologise to you for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience in that moment. We also apologise to our nominees, guests and viewers for what transpired during what should have been a celebratory event.”

Smith returned to his seat in the Dolby Theatre after slapping Rock, shouting twice to the stage: “Keep my wife’s name out of your f****** mouth.”

Rock had joked about Jada’s buzzcut, saying on stage: “Jada, can’t wait for GI Jane 2”.

94th Academy Awards
Will Smith, right, hits presenter Chris Rock on stage while presenting the award for best documentary feature at the Oscars on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

The Magic Mike XXL star and Red Table Talk host has previously spoken about her struggles with alopecia and how it had prompted her to shave her head.

A shocked Rock continued to present the best documentary feature gong which was won by Summer Of Soul.

Smith later returned to the stage accept the Oscar and gave an emotional speech about the importance of protecting family.

Rock, 57, addressed the incident publicly for the first time at a stand-up show in Boston on Wednesday night.

According to audio from the gig, shared by Hollywood trade outlet Variety, Rock told audiences: “How was your weekend? I don’t have a bunch of shit about what happened, so if you came to hear that, I have a whole show I wrote before this weekend.

“I’m still kind of processing what happened. So, at some point I’ll talk about that shit. And it will be serious and funny.”

Oscars Chris Rock
Chris Rock, left, outside the Wilbur Theatre in Boston before a stand-up performance on Wednesday (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

He was reportedly given a standing ovation by his audience before his set.

Smith issued a formal apology to Rock on Instagram, admitting he had reacted “emotionally” to the joke, but said “violence in all its forms is poisonous and destructive”.

Pinkett Smith also called for a “season of healing” following the incident.

Smith’s behaviour has been heavily criticised by his Hollywood contemporaries, including Oscars co-host Wanda Sykes.

Speaking on the Ellen DeGeneres show, the actress and comedian said she was “still traumatised” and felt disappointed by the way the show had handled the “sickening” incident.

She also praised Rock’s response after the altercation, revealing he had approached her to apologise about the incident because he knew it would overshadow her presenting efforts alongside Amy Schumer and Regina Hall.

“I just felt so awful for my friend Chris. It was sickening, absolutely sickening. I physically felt ill and I’m still a little traumatised by it,” she said.

“And for them to let him stay in that room and enjoy the rest of the show and accept his award, I was like: ‘How gross is this? This is just the wrong message’.”

“You assault somebody, you get escorted out the building and that’s it. But for them to let him continue, I thought was gross.”

Oscars showrunner Will Packer has described the altercation as “a very painful moment for me”.

But others went further, with comedian Jim Carrey calling the Oscars audience “spineless” for applauding Smith’s win following his behaviour.

Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe said he was “dramatically bored” of the discussion around the incident.

He told Good Morning Britain: “I saw it. I’m just so already dramatically bored of hearing people’s opinions about it, that I just don’t want to be another opinion adding to it.”

The actor said he had also been at the receiving end of jokes during award season.

“When you were going on stuff as a kid you were never quite sure whether the joke was with you or you are the butt of the joke,” he said.

“So you just have a moment where you are like, ‘I will just keep smiling and laughing and hopefully this will end soon’.”

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