Actor Will Smith was asked to leave the Oscar ceremony after he slapped comedian and presenter Chris Rock in the face, but he refused, the ceremony’s organizers said on Wednesday.
During Sunday night’s Oscars telecast, after Rock made a joke about Smith's wife, actor Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith went up to the stage and slapped the comedian.
“Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated,” said an Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences statement quoted by trade journal Variety. “While we would like to clarify that Mr. Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognize we could have handled the situation differently.”
Disciplinary proceedings against Smith were also initiated “for violations of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, including inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behavior, and compromising the integrity of the Academy,” the statement added.
The newly Oscar-winning actor “is being provided at least 15 days’ notice of a vote regarding his violations and sanctions and the opportunity to be heard beforehand by means of a written response,” it said.
The next board meeting of the academy’s board of governors is set for April 18.
The academy also apologized to Rock “for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience at that moment.”
Earlier, the academy condemned the slapping and said it had officially launched a formal review of the incident.
Slap heard round the world
During the broadcast, Rock said of Jada Pinkett Smith, “Jada, I love you. G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see it,” apparently referring to Smith’s close-shaven hair, comparing it to the military cut actress Demi Moore got in the 1997 movie G.I. Jane.
Jada suffers from a condition called alopecia areata, a disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks hair follicles, causing hair loss.
After seeing his wife’s reaction to the joke, Will Smith approached the stage and slapped Rock across the face with an open hand.
“Oh wow. Wow,” a stunned Rock replied. “Will Smith just smacked the sh*t out of me.”
Smith then shouted at Rock twice, saying: “Keep my wife's name out of your (expletive) mouth.”
Later in the same ceremony, Will Smith was honored with a Best Actor Oscar.
“Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive,” Smith said the next day in a statement issued by his publicist.
“My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally. I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. 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.”
The incident set off a wide-ranging public debate over such issues as treating Black women with respect and the increasing normalcy of violence being used as a way to address issues.