Will Smith resigns from Academy after slapping Chris Rock at Oscars

Shortly after he slapped Chris Rock on stage, Will Smith returns to accept the best actor award, at the Academy Awards at the in Los Angeles, on March 27, 2022. (Photo: NYTimes)
LOS ANGELES, United States — Will Smith, who slapped 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”.اضافة اعلان

The sudden announcement came late Friday afternoon, days after the academy had condemned 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 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”.

Now that he has resigned, 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.

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 that also broadcasts the Oscars, Packer said that after Smith had been asked to leave the ceremony, he urged academy leadership not to “physically remove” him from the theater in the middle of the live broadcast.

Packer said he had learned from his co-producer, Shayla Cowan, that there were discussions of plans to “physically remove” Smith from the venue. So he said he immediately approached academy officials and told them that he believed 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,” 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.”

In the interview, Packer also said that 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 Rock.

Someone close to Rock who asked to speak anonymously because the academy’s inquiry into the incident is ongoing said that Rock was never asked directly if he wanted Smith removed. Had he been asked, it was not clear how Rock would have responded, the person said. Rock was only asked if he wanted to press charges, and he said that he did not, the person said.

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 Rock backstage that Smith had actually hit the comedian.

“I just took a punch from Muhammad Ali,” Packer recalled Rock telling him.

Packer said that Smith reached out and apologized to him the morning after the Oscars. And he praised 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,” Packer said of the incident.

Asked if, after hearing Smith’s acceptance speech, he wished that the actor had left the ceremony, Packer said that he did, noting that Smith had not used his remarks to express real contrition and apologize to Rock.

“If he wasn’t going to give that speech which made it truly better, then yes, yes,” Packer said when asked if he wished 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.”

Smith did not apologize to Rock until Monday evening, after the academy had condemned his actions and initiated disciplinary proceedings against him. Packer’s comments came after days of questions about why Smith had seemed to face no repercussions for striking a presenter on live television.

The academy said in a statement earlier this week that 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 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.”

Both on Sunday night and in subsequent interviews this week, Los Angeles police have maintained that 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 Rock did not do.

Rock made his first public comments about the incident Wednesday at a comedy show in Boston. “I’m still kind of processing what happened,” 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 Smith gave in “Concussion”.

At the time, 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.ag

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