Will Smith WAS asked to leave the Oscars on Sunday night, the Academy has said, after the actor walked up on stage and slapped Chris Rock who was about the present an award.
In one of the most talked-about moments at the Academy Awards for years, Smith was seen making his way onto the stage and striking the comedian across the face following a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith and her hair loss.
Rock said: “Jada, can’t wait for GI Jane 2,” prompting the actress to roll her eyes. Red Table Talk host Pinkett Smith has previously spoken about her struggles with alopecia and said it is what prompted her to shave her head.
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Smith returned to his seat following the altercation before shouting twice: “Keep my wife’s name out of your f****** mouth,” as a flustered and clearly stunned Rock tried to summarize presenting the best documentary feature category.
Smith later returned to the stage to accept the award for best actor for his performance in King Richard, and gave an emotional speech about the importance of protecting family.
The Academy has since been questioned about why Smith wasn’t removed from the event but the organization has now revealed that he was asked to leave the 94th annual awards show after the incident but refused. They have said the best actor winner’s actions were “shocking” and “traumatic” to witness live on television as it apologized to Rock, praising his “resilience of him in that moment”.
“Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated,” the Academy said in a statement. 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.
“Mr Smith’s actions at the 94th Oscars were a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness in-person and on television. Mr Rock, we apologize to you for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience in that moment. We also apologize to our nominees, guests, and viewers for what transpired during what should have been a celebratory event.”
A formal review into the incident has been launched to discuss what disciplinary measures will be taken, and Smith will reportedly be given the chance to provide a written defence. The Academy said disciplinary action for Smith could include suspension, expulsion or other sanctions.
The actor apologized to The Academy and his fellow nominees during his acceptance speech following his win, and later to Rock on social media. In a statement posted to Instagram he admitted he had reacted “emotionally” to the joke, but “violence in all its forms is poisonous and destructive”.
Rock has since commented on the shock incident during his latest stand-up show and said he is “still processing” his altercation with Smith at the Oscars but will talk about it “at some point” and that it will be “serious and funny” .