Will Smith resigns from academy after beating Chris Rock at Oscars

LOS ANGELES — Will Smith, who beat comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars, said Friday he is stepping down from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, saying he had “betrayed” his reliance on behavior that was “shocking, 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 responded directly to the Academy’s disciplinary hearing and will fully accept any consequences for my conduct,” he said in a statement on Friday.

“I deprived other nominees and winners of an 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 further consequences that the Board deems appropriate”.

“Change takes time,” he concluded, “and I am committed to doing the work to ensure I never again allow violence to overtake reason.”

Now that he has resigned, Mr. Smith no longer has access to the Academy’s screenings and events. He also won’t be able to vote at the Oscars. However, he could still be nominated for an award, since membership is not a prerequisite for eligibility.

Mr. Smith’s resignation came approximately 12 hours after Will Packer, the Oscar show’s lead producer, first spoke publicly about the episode.

In an interview with Good Morning America on ABC, the network that also airs the Oscars, Mr. Packer said that after Mr. Smith was asked to leave the ceremony, he urged academy officials not to “physically date him.” to remove the Oscars”. Theater in the middle of the live broadcast.

Mr. Packer said he was told by his co-producer, Shayla Cowan, that there were discussions about plans to “physically remove” Mr. Smith from the venue. So he said he immediately contacted academy officials and told them he believed Mr. Rock “didn’t want to make a bad situation worse.”

“I was advocating at the time what Rock wanted, which was not to physically remove Will Smith at the time,” said Mr. Packer. “Because, as I have now been told, that was the only option at the time. It was explained to me that there was a conversation I wasn’t part of to ask him to leave voluntarily.”

In the interview, Mr. Packer also said that Mr. Rock’s joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair was unscripted “free styling.”

“He didn’t tell any of the planned jokes,” he said of Mr. Rock.

Someone close to Mr. Rock, who asked to speak anonymously because the Academy’s investigation into the incident is ongoing, said that Mr. Rock was never asked directly if he wanted Mr. Smith removed. Had he been asked, it’s not clear how Mr. Rock would have responded, the person said. Mr Rock was only asked if he wanted to press charges and he said he didn’t, the person said.

Mr. Packer said that like many viewers at home, he originally thought the slap might be part of an unplanned comedy and that he wasn’t entirely sure until he spoke to Mr. Rock backstage that Mr. Smith had actually met comedians.

“I just got hit by Muhammad Ali,” Mr. Packer recalled being told by Mr. Rock.

Mr. Packer said Mr. Smith called him the morning after the Oscars and apologized to him. And he commended Mr. Rock for keeping his cool. “Chris kept his head when everyone else lost theirs,” he said.

“I’ve never felt so devastated,” Mr. Packer said of the incident.

When asked if, after hearing Mr. Smith’s acceptance speech, he wished the actor had walked out of the ceremony, Mr. Packer said he did, noting that Mr. Smith did not use his remarks to express genuine regret and to apologize to Mr. Rock.

“If he didn’t give that speech that really made it better, then yeah, yeah,” Mr. Packer said when asked if he wished Mr. Smith had walked out of the ceremony. “Because now you don’t have the look of someone who committed this act, in the sense of a conciliatory acceptance speech at that moment, didn’t get to the point, who then continued to stand in the room.”

Mr Smith only apologized to Mr Rock on Monday night after the Academy condemned his actions and instituted disciplinary proceedings against him. Mr Packer’s comments came after days of being asked why Mr Smith apparently faced no consequences for punching a host on live television.

The academy said in a statement earlier this week that Mr Smith was asked to leave the awards show after the slap but stayed. Then several publications questioned that report, citing anonymous sources, and reported that Mr. Packer had suggested he stay.

Shortly after the ceremony ended on Sunday, Los Angeles Police Department issued a statement saying the person who had been beaten “refused to file a police report.”

In the interview, Mr. Packer described his memories of law enforcement involvement.

“They said it’s a battery, we’ll get it,” Mr. Packer said in the interview. “We are ready to take him immediately. You can file a complaint. We can arrest him.”

“Chris was very opposed to those options,” Mr. Packer continued. “He said, ‘No, I’m fine.’ He said, ‘No, no, no.’”

Both on Sunday night and in subsequent interviews this week, Los Angeles Police Department asserted that Mr. Smith’s slap in the face qualifies as a misdemeanor battery under California law — and that as a misdemeanor, officers can take no action unless the victim is in the Case charges what 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 officers are primarily responsible for patrolling outside the Dolby Theater and the academy hires a security company to deal with problems inside the building, he said.

On Sunday, a police captain was stationed backstage as a liaison, the deputy police chief said. The police captain inside didn’t notice the slap himself; but he quickly realized it, the deputy director added. The police captain got in touch with a representative for Mr. Rock shortly after the comedian finished the awards ceremony and returned backstage with his team, Deputy Chief Chow said.

The representative told “Chris Rock’s wish” that he had no intention of filing a complaint or filing a complaint with the police, the deputy police chief said. “He didn’t want to do anything.”

The police department was not asked to escort Mr Smith out of the venue, 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 Mr. Rock’s representatives Monday to ensure he was still unwilling to act. He reiterated that he had not done so, 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 cover the episode in more detail later. “It’s going to be serious, it’s going to be funny, but I’d like to — I’ll crack a few jokes.”

After nominating only white actors and actresses for its awards in 2015 and being widely criticized, the academy did it again the next year — with a view to performances like the one Mr. Smith gave in “Concussion.” At the time, Ms. Pinkett Smith spoke openly about what many people saw as an urgent need for the academy to become more inclusive. Smith was less pointed in his criticism, but joined her in boycotting the ceremony and drawing attention to the #OscarsSoWhite movement.

Nicole Sperling reported from Los Angeles a Matt Stevens from New York. Brooks Barnescontributed reporting from Los Angeles.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/01/movies/oscars-will-smith-slap.html Will Smith resigns from academy after beating Chris Rock at Oscars

Isaiah Colbert

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