Will Smith Refused to Leave Oscars After Slap, Academy Says

LOS ANGELES – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Wednesday that actor Will Smith was asked to leave the Oscars ceremony after he slapped Chris Rock Sunday night onstage, but that the actor had refused to go.

The admission came as part of a statement the academy released saying it had initiated disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith “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 disciplinary process will take a few weeks to conclude, it said. Mr. Smith is being given at least 15 days’ notice of a vote regarding his violations and potential sanctions. He will be given the opportunity to be heard beforehand with a written response. The organization’s board of governors are scheduled to meet again April 18.

“Mr. Smith’s actions at the 94th Oscars were a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness in-person and on television, ”the academy said in a statement. “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. ”

The statement continued, “Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated. 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. ”

The two-and-a-half-hour meeting of the board of governors on Wednesday was described by two people who attended as “emotional,” as the governors conveyed the feelings of their constituents from their branches of the film industry. The feeling in the room, according to those who attended, was that it was their obligation “to not normalize violence,” said two governors who were granted anonymity to discuss a private meeting.

On Sunday at the Academy Awards, Mr. Smith reacted to a joke Mr. Rock had made about his wife’s buzzed hair by leaving his seat in the audience and slapping the comedian across the face, then warning him – with expletives – not to speak about his wife, the actress Jada Pinkett Smith. (Ms. Pinkett Smith has alopecia, which causes hair loss and has led her to regularly buzz her hair.)

Shortly afterward Mr. Smith won an Oscar for his lead performance in “King Richard,” a biopic in which he played the patriarch of the Williams tennis family. He used his speech to apologize to the academy and fellow nominees – but not to Mr. Rock. The next day, after the academy condemned his actions and opened an inquiry, Mr. Smith apologized to Mr. Rock in a public statement that said he had been “out of line.”

The stunning onstage moment immediately set off a national debate over who was to blame and, in Hollywood, questions about why Mr. Smith faced no repercussions after striking a presenter on live television.

Wanda Sykes, one of the hosts of Sunday’s telecast, said in a clip from an interview with Ellen DeGeneres that was shared Wednesday that the moment was “sickening” to her and that she thought Smith should have been escorted from the building instead of being allowed to stay and accept his Oscar.

“I’m still a little traumatized by it,” Ms. Sykes said in the clip from an episode of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” that is scheduled to air next week. “For them to let him stay in that room and enjoy the rest of the show and accept his award – I was like, how gross is this? This is just the wrong message. ”

Nicole Sperling reported from Los Angeles and Julia Jacobs reported from Boston.

Leave a Comment