Oscars organizers almost removed Will Smith from the awards ceremony after he stepped on stage and slapped Chris Rock following a joke directed at Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
“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,” a new report from People (opens in new tab) reads. “People were also checking that Chris Rock was okay.”
The sources explained: “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.
The Los Angeles Police Department has confirmed that Rock will not press charges against Smith. The insider added that “having Will removed was definitely discussed seriously.” They continued: “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.”
On the night, Rock made a joke about Pinkett Smith, comparing her hair to G.I. Jane, a fictional character with a shaved head. Jada had previously revealed she had been diagnosed with alopecia, which leads to hair loss. Will jumped on stage and hit Rock with an open hand. He then returned to his seat and shouted: “Keep my wife’s name out your fucking mouth.” It was initially unclear whether the moment was planned, with social media unsure whether something had actually gone wrong as the broadcast had been censored in real time. Soon enough, it was clear that Smith’s actions were not pre-planned.
Following the incident, Smith went on to win Best Actor at the awards, yet did not directly apologize to Rock during his acceptance speech. He has since issued a formal statement online saying sorry to the comedian.
“I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris,” reads a statement posted to Smith’s social media account. “I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.”
“I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us,” Smith continued. “I am a work in progress.”
The Academy responded by posting its own statement. “The Academy does not condone violence of any form,” its official social media account posted. “Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Awards winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world.”