Oscars producer Will Packer said Los Angeles police were “prepared” to arrest Will Smith after he slapped Chris Rock on the Academy Awards stage.
Smith, 53, faces disciplinary action over the altercation with Rock, which was prompted by the comedian’s joke about the appearance of Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett while he was onstage at the Oscars ceremony on Sunday (27 March).
The actor shocked the live audience at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles when he strode on stage and hit Rock across the face with an open hand. Smith then returned to his seat, yelling at Rock to keep Pinkett Smith’s name out of his “f***ing mouth” on him.
Smith has since released an official statement apologizing to the comedian.
Now, Oscars producer Will Packer has revealed in a forthcoming interview on good morning america that the Los Angeles Police Department told Rock they were “prepared” to arrest Smith, adding that the slap amounted to “battery”.
“They were saying, you know, this is battery, was a word they used in that moment,” Packer said in a clip from the interview which was released by ABC on Thursday (31 March).
“They said ‘we will go get him. We are prepared. We’re prepared to get him right now. You can press charges, we can arrest him.’ They were laying out the options,” he continued, adding that Rock was “very dismissive” of the idea.
“He was like, ‘No, no, no, I’m fine,’” Packer said. “And even to the point where I said, ‘Rock, let them finish’. The LAPD officers finished laying out what his options were and they said, ‘Would you like us to take any action?’ And he said ‘No’.”
Packer has previously described the moment when Smith struck Rock as “very painful” for him to watch, after one of his tweets was criticized online.
Shortly after the Oscars ceremony was concluded, Packer tweeted: “Welp…I said it wouldn’t be boring.”
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“Black people have a defiant spirit of laughter when it comes to dealing with pain because there has been so much of it. I don’t feel the need to elucidate that for you,” Packer tweeted, addressing his critics. “But I also don’t mind being transparent and [saying] that this was a very painful moment for me. On many levels.”
The LAPD after Sunday night’s ceremony said that they were aware of the incident, and that Rock had declined to press charges against Smith.
However, the department declined to comment on Thursday on Packer’s interview, a longer version of which will air on Friday morning (1 April) in the US.
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences on Wednesday (30 March) said it had initiated disciplinary proceedings against Smith for violations of its code of conduct. Pending investigation, Smith could be suspended, expelled or otherwise sanctioned.
Without giving specifics, the Academy also revealed that Smith was asked to leave the ceremony but refused to do so. The Academy said: “We recognize we could have handled the situation differently.”
Following that announcement, the Academy’s “impotent indecision” was criticized online with one user tweeting: “I am used to impotent indecision from the Academy leaders at this point. But the idea that they made the call decisively and then failed to execute it is almost the worst version of the story I can think of.”
Not only did Smith not leave the ceremony, he went on to be awarded with the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in king richard just minutes after the incident.
Find the full list of 2022 Oscar winners here. See the latest updates and reactions from the dramatic ceremony hereand read about the biggest talking points here.
Additional reporting by Associated Press