Details are emerging that Will Smith wasn’t directly asked to leave the Oscar ceremony after slapping Chris Rock over his “G.I. Jane 2” joke to Jada Pinkett Smith — rather, it was suggested.
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Deadline hears that a pair of Oscar heavyweights — Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson — had a discussion with Smith’s rep, bouncing around the idea of the then-pending King Richard Best Actor winner departing the Dolby Theatre. Smith’s rep approached the actor with the suggestion, and he reportedly told her, according to a well-placed source that night, “I want to make this right, I want to stay and apologize.”
As more details come out, as more perspectives are being thrown into the hat, the role of Oscar telecast producer Will Packer in all of this seems to be murkier. We know for a fact that Packer did speak to Smith after the incident with Rock, as did Denzel Washington, Tyler Perry and Bradley Cooper. As for what the actual content of that conversation was, it seems there are many POVs on what went down in the fog of war. One source tells us that Packer told Smith to stay, not leave. This is where we might see individuals, running to their own corners as the blame game intensifies.
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On the other hand, an insider tells us that in fact it was a “firm ask” from Academy leadership, not a mere suggestion that Smith leave the Dolby.
These conflicting perspectives muddy the waters even more.
When reached by Deadline today, representatives from the Academy didn’t have any comments on the latest development. But sources close to the organization tell us that the statement that Smith was asked to leave “remains accurate.”
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AMPAS issued a statement Wednesday saying, “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.”
Additionally, we hear, the Academy is maintaining its focus on events going forward, specifically the April 18 follow-up meeting that it has scheduled after receiving an expected written response from Smith in the coming week.
“I haven’t talked to anyone despite what you may have heard,” Rock said last night during the second show from his Ego Death World Tour on Wednesday night at Boston’s Wilbur Theatre.
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At the opening show, after he was greeted by the sold-out crowd with a three-minute standing ovation, Rock asked the audience, “How was your weekend?” The comic noted that he is “still kinda processing what happened” and that “at some point” he will talk about “that sh*t,” and “it will be serious, and it will be funny.” He then added that he was “going to tell some jokes” before segueing to his set while an audience member yelled “F*ck Will Smith!” You can hear his remarks below.
In a meeting Wednesday hours before Rock took the stage in Boston, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Board of Governors convened and voted overwhelming to investigate the Smith-Rock matter further.
“Consistent with the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, as well as California law, Mr. Smith is being provided at least 15 days’ notice of a vote regarding his violations and sanctions, and the opportunity to be heard beforehand by means of a written response,” the Academy said yesterday of the “disciplinary proceedings” it has begun after a virtual gathering of the dozens of Governors and other AMPAS aides concluded. “At the next board meeting on April 18, the Academy may take any disciplinary action, which may include suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions permitted by the Bylaws and Standards of Conduct.”
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