Will Smith resigns from the Academy after slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars
LOS ANGELES — Will Smith, who slapped comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars, said Friday he was resigning from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, saying he had “betrayed” his trust with “shocking” conduct. , painful, and inexcusable.”
The sudden announcement came late Friday afternoon, days after the Academy condemned Mr Smith’s actions and launched an investigation into the incident.
“I have directly responded to the Academy’s Notice of Disciplinary Hearing and will fully accept all consequences of my conduct,” he said in a statement Friday.
“I deprived the other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work,” he said in the statement. “My heart is broken.”
He said he would ‘accept any other consequence 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 override reason.”
The academy said it accepted his resignation.
“We have received and accepted the immediate resignation of Mr. Will Smith from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences”, David Rubin, its chairman, said in a statement. “We will continue to advance our disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith for violating the Academy’s standards of conduct, prior to our next board meeting scheduled for April 18.”
Now that he has stepped down, Mr Smith will no longer have access to academy screenings and events. He also won’t be able to vote for the Oscars. However, he could still be nominated for an award, as being a member is not an eligibility requirement.
Mr Smith’s resignation came about 12 hours after Will Packer, the Oscars telecast’s senior producer, 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, Mr. Packer said that after asking Mr. Smith to leave the ceremony, he urged Academy management not to physically removing him from the theater in the middle of the live broadcast.
Mr Packer said he learned from his co-producer, Shayla Cowan, that there were talks of plans to ‘physically remove’ Mr Smith from the room. So he said he immediately approached academy officials and told them he thought Mr Rock didn’t want to “make a bad situation worse”.
The altercation between Will Smith and Chris Rock
“I was advocating what Rock wanted at that time, which was not to physically remove Will Smith at that time,” Mr. Packer said. “Because, as I have now been told, it was the only option at the time. I was told there had been a conversation that I had not been part of to ask him to leave voluntarily.
In the interview, Mr. Packer also said Mr. Rock’s joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair was an unscripted “freestyle.”
“He didn’t tell one of the planned jokes,” he said of Mr. Rock.
A person close to Mr. Rock who asked to speak anonymously because the Academy’s investigation into the incident is ongoing said Mr. Rock was never asked directly if he wanted Mr. Smith be fired. If asked, it was unclear how Mr. Rock would have responded, the person said. Mr. Rock was only asked if he wanted to press charges, and he said no, the person said.
Mr Packer said that, like many viewers at home, he initially thought the slap might be part of an unplanned comedic bit, and was not quite sure until he spoke with Mr. Rock backstage that Mr. Smith had indeed punched the comedian.
“I just took a punch from Muhammad Ali,” Mr Packer recalled, remembering Mr Rock telling him.
Mr Packer said Mr Smith reached out and apologized to him the day after the Oscars. And he praised Mr. Rock for keeping his cool. “Chris kept his head when everyone was losing theirs,” he said.
“I have never felt so immediately devastated,” Mr Packer said of the incident.
When asked if, after hearing Mr. Smith’s acceptance speech, he wanted the actor to leave the ceremony, Mr. Packer said yes, noting that Mr. Smith had not used his remarks to express real contrition and apologize to Mr. Rock.
“If he wasn’t going to give that speech that really made him better, then yeah, yeah,” Mr Packer said when asked if he wished Mr Smith had left the ceremony. “Because now you don’t get the lens of someone who did this act, who didn’t nail it in terms of a conciliatory acceptance speech at that time, who then went on to be in the room.”
Mr Smith did not apologize to Mr Rock until Monday night after the Academy condemned his actions and initiated disciplinary proceedings against him. Mr Packer’s comments came after days of questions about why Mr Smith had appeared to face no repercussions for punching a presenter on live television.
The academy said in a statement earlier this week that Mr Smith was asked to leave the awards ceremony after the slap, but stayed. Then several publications questioned that account, citing unnamed sources, and reported that Mr Packer had suggested he stay.
Shortly after the ceremony ended on Sunday, the Los Angeles Police Department released a statement saying the person who was slapped had “refused to file a police report.”
In the interview, Mr. Packer described his recollection of law enforcement involvement.
“They were saying, it’s a battery, we’re going to get it,” Mr Packer said in the interview. “We are ready to have it now. You can file a complaint. We can stop it.
“Chris was very dismissive of those options,” Mr. Packer continued. “He was like, ‘No, I’m fine.’ He was like, ‘No, no, no.’
On Sunday night and in subsequent interviews this week, Los Angeles police argued that Mr Smith’s slap in the face qualified as a misdemeanor battery under California law – and that as a misdemeanor officers cannot act only if the victim in the case files a complaint, which Mr. Rock did not.
In an interview Thursday, Deputy Chief Blake Chow of the Los Angeles Police Department’s West Bureau described the department’s role in less dramatic terms. At the Oscars, police are primarily tasked with patrolling outside the Dolby Theater and the Academy hires a security company to handle problems inside the building, he said.
On Sunday, a police captain was stationed behind the scenes as a liaison, the deputy chief said. The police captain inside did not observe the slap himself; but he soon realized that, added the sous chef. The police captain contacted a representative for Mr. Rock shortly after the comedian finished presenting an award and returned backstage with his team, Deputy Chief Chow said.
The rep communicated “Chris Rock’s wishes” that he did not want to press charges or file a police report, the deputy chief said. “He didn’t want to do anything.
The police department was not asked to escort Mr. Smith off the scene, and even if the police had been asked to do so, such a request would not have been within the department’s purview, the deputy chief said.
Detectives followed up with representatives for Mr Rock on Monday to make sure he still did not want to act. He reiterated that he did not, the deputy chief said.
Mr. Rock made his first public comments about the incident on Wednesday at a comedy show in Boston. “I’m still processing what happened,” Mr. Rock said, while promising to discuss the episode in more depth later. “It’ll be serious, it’ll be funny, but I like – I’ll tell jokes.”
After nominating only white actors and actresses for its awards in 2015, drawing widespread criticism, the academy did it again the following year – neglecting performances like the one Mr Smith gave in ‘Concussion “. At the time, Ms Pinkett Smith was open about what many saw as an urgent need for the academy to become more inclusive. Smith was less pointed in her criticism, but joined her in a boycott of the ceremony, drawing attention to the #OscarsSoWhite movement.
Nicole Sperling reported from Los Angeles and matt steven from New York. Brooks Barnescontributed reporting from Los Angeles.