Will Smith banned from Oscars ceremonies for 10 years after slap

Saturday April 09 2022
Will Smith slaps Chris Rock

Hollywood star Will Smith slaps fellow actor Chris Rock onstage during the 94th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on March 27, 2022.

By AFP

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Friday that Will Smith is banned from attending all academy events, most notably including the Academy Awards, for the next 10 years as penalty for slapping Chris Rock onstage at last month’s Oscars.

Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson wrote in an open letter addressed to “our Academy family” that the celebratory intentions of the March 27 ceremony “were overshadowed by the unacceptable and harmful behavior we saw Mr. Smith exhibit onstage.” They also apologized, stating that they “did not adequately address the situation in the room,” and thanked Rock for maintaining his composure onstage.

“This action we are taking today in response to Will Smith’s behavior is a step toward a larger goal of protecting the safety of our performers and guests, and restoring trust in the Academy,” the letter continued. “We also hope this can begin a time of healing and restoration for all involved and impacted.”

Smith, 53, said in a statement Friday, “I accept and respect the Academy’s decision.”

The academy’s board of governors met a week after Smith resigned from the organization. The actor called his own actions “shocking, painful, and inexcusable,” adding that he “betrayed the trust of the Academy” and “deprived other[s] … of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work.” Echoing a statement he posted to Instagram the day after the Oscars, Smith again apologized to Rock, the academy and his fellow nominees and winners, and said he would “fully accept any and all consequences for my conduct.”

Though he can also no longer take part in Oscars voting, Smith’s win for “King Richard” and his award eligibility are unaffected moving forward; he can still be nominated and win a trophy.

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The board that voted on Smith’s fate consists of 54 members: three from each of the academy’s 17 branches, which range from acting and editing to marketing and public relations, in addition to three governors at large.

Oscars slap was PR nightmare, and celebrity publicists still shudder

At the 94th Academy Awards, before he presented the best documentary Oscar, Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith appearing ready to star in “G.I. Jane 2,” a reference to her shaved head. The actress has spoken publicly in recent years about struggling with hair loss from alopecia, an autoimmune disease; Rock’s jab was unscripted, according to ceremony producer Will Packer. Pinkett Smith looked unamused by the joke and, within moments, her husband made his way to the stage and slapped Rock across the face before returning to his seat.

ABC cut the live broadcast’s audio for more than 20 seconds, including while Smith yelled twice for Rock to “keep my wife’s name out your f---ing mouth.” The show continued, albeit with a visibly shocked audience.

Less than an hour later, Smith, who had been nominated for best actor twice before, won his first Oscar for playing Richard Williams, father to tennis champions Venus and Serena, in the film “King Richard.” Tears streamed down his face as he accepted the award, stating that “love will make you do crazy things.” He apologized in his speech to the academy and his fellow nominees.

Accounts of the academy’s immediate response to the incident have been disputed. The organization announced days later that Smith had been asked to leave the ceremony after slapping Rock, but that he refused to do so. In an interview on “Good Morning America,” Packer said he hadn’t witnessed that interaction but noted that he relayed to leadership that Rock didn’t want Smith physically removed from the Dolby Theatre. A person close to Rock who declined to speak on the record said Rock was never asked whether he wanted Smith removed; they said the comedian had only been asked if he wanted to press charges, which he ultimately declined to do.