(UPDATED with Will Smith statement) With their options rather limited, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors has just decided that Will Smith will not be able to attend the Oscars for 10 years for slapping Chris Rock on-stage at the 94th Academy Awards on March 27.
“The Board has decided, for a period of 10 years from April 8, 2022, Mr. Smith shall not be permitted to attend any Academy events or programs, in person or virtually, including but not limited to the Academy Awards,” said AMPAS president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson of Smith’s “unacceptable and harmful behavior” in a letter to the full membership after a contentious 9 AM PT virtual meeting today concluded. “We also hope this can begin a time of healing and restoration for all involved and impacted,” they added at the end of the letter, with no pun undoubtedly intended. Read the full letter from Rubin and Hudson below.
“I accept and respect the Academy’s decision,” Smith said in a succinct statement soon after AMPAS made their POV public.
Not that there was a lot more the AMPAS Board, which includes Steven Spielberg, Ava DuVernay, Laura Dern and Whoopi Goldberg among its current roster, could really do. Seeing where this debacle was likely going to end up, Smith made a chess move on April 1, and immediately resigned from the AMPAS.
In his preemptive letter the King Richard Best Actor Oscar winner proclaimed: “My actions at the 94th Academy Awards presentation were shocking, painful, and inexcusable. The list of those I have hurt is long and includes Chris, his family, many of my dear friends and loved ones, all those in attendance, and global audiences at home. I betrayed the trust of the Academy. I deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work. I am heartbroken. I want to put the focus back on those who deserve attention for their achievements and allow the Academy to get back to the incredible work it does to support creativity and artistry in film.”
With whispers in the preceding days that the organization’s more than 50-person strong Board of Governors were strongly considering a decade long expulsion as part of its self-described “disciplinary proceedings,” the actor’s April Fool’s Day decision effectively neutered the organization. While disinvites to future Academy Awards, a fine or even a lawsuit for staining the Oscar brand were discussed to varying degrees in recent days, there was never ever a possibility that Smith would have his Best Actor Oscar taken away from him – as Roman Polanski can tell you.
While he won’t be allowed to hand out the Best Actress award at the 95th Academy Awards, as is traditional for the previous Best Actor winner, there is nothing in today’s AMPAS decision that prevents the busy Smith from being nominated in future years. Such a move on the part of the Board of Governors would have been unprecedented for AMPAS, and likely could blow up in its face.
Not that the now banned Smith didn’t have a good run among the Hollywood elite group before striking and verbally lambasting Fargo star Rock over his mocking of Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair. The former Fresh Prince had been a member of the Academy since 2001, joining just five years after his big screen blockbuster debut in Independence Day.
It was Smith’s resignation last week that forced the AMPAS leadership to move up its meeting from April 18 to today.“We were required to provide Mr. Smith notice 15 days prior to the board meeting at which such action might be taken, and also give him the opportunity to provide the board a written statement no less than five days prior to that meeting,” an April 6 memo from AMPAS prez Rubin explained, noting that those rules and timeline had been essentially taken over by Smith with his resignation.
Of course, by that point a secondary scandal was in full bloom as conflicting and nuanced explanations began to leak out as to why Smith wasn’t removed from the Dolby Theater after assaulting Rock. After an AMPAS Governors meeting on March 30, the group’s reps released a statement 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.”
Those close to Smith said this was not true.
They say that AMPAS heads Rubin and CEO Hudson rather gently suggested to Smith’s longtime rep Meredith O’Sullivan backstage that the actor leave the Dolby. Even before the likes of Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry consoled Smith, the then Best Actor nominee’s rep passed the request on to him. Perhaps not capturing the severity of the moment, Smith supposedly said he wanted to stay, to say sorry and that was that.
With no adults taking control or responsibility, Smith stayed in his front row seat for over half an hour before going back up on stage to accept his long expected Best Actor award.
For many watching at home and even some in the room, the standing ovation the actor received before launching into a somewhat rambling, emotional, self justifying and apologetic (though not to Chris Rock, that would come on social media a day later) speech was a travesty. Later Smith and family showed up at the Vanity Fair party to dance to his own past hits in a manner that displayed a distinct lack of contrition.
Additionally, contradictory accounts arose as to whether Oscars producer Will Packer did or did not ask Smith to leave. Attempting to get out in front of AMPAS, Packer sat down with GMA on April 1 to tell the ABC morning show that the decision to force Smith to leave fell on Rock’s hands.
As to whether the police “were about to physically remove Will Smith,” the Girls Trip EP said. “I wasn’t part of those conversations. …Rock has made it clear that he didn’t want to make a bad situation worse.”
However, sources told Deadline following that GMA interview that Packer, who directly spoke to Smith in the minutes following the shocking slap, was conflating from a conversation that happened after Smith slapped Rock onstage, where the comic told Packer he did not want to press charges. Had he chosen to do that, the LAPD would have removed Smith and arrested him. Had Packer actually asked Rock if he wanted Smith removed from the building, he might have gotten a different answer, we hear.
Also, had the now touring Rock filed a police report against Smith, the actor could have faced up to six months behind bars and a $100,000 fine if found guilty on the misdemeanor charge that the assault is under California law.
Now, with big and awards-intended projects like AppleTV+’s Antoine Fuqua helmed Emancipation in the can as other offerings at Netflix and Sony on pause for a beat, Will Smith’s career will surely dim for a bit. However, this is Hollywood, and with a fanbase as wide and deep as global superstar Smith has, expect to see the actor right back in the center of the A-list crowd soon enough.
Read AMPAS President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson’s full letter to Academy members here:
The 94th Oscars were meant to be a celebration of the many individuals in our community who did incredible work this past year; however, those moments were overshadowed by the unacceptable and harmful behavior we saw Mr. Smith exhibit on stage.
During our telecast, we did not adequately address the situation in the room. For this, we are sorry. This was an opportunity for us to set an example for our guests, viewers and our Academy family around the world, and we fell short — unprepared for the unprecedented.
Today, the Board of Governors convened a meeting to discuss how best to respond to Will Smith’s actions at the Oscars, in addition to accepting his resignation. The Board has decided, for a period of 10 years from April 8, 2022, Mr. Smith shall not be permitted to attend any Academy events or programs, in person or virtually, including but not limited to the Academy Awards.
We want to express our deep gratitude to Mr. Rock for maintaining his composure under extraordinary circumstances. We also want to thank our hosts, nominees, presenters and winners for their poise and grace during our telecast.
This action we are taking today in response to Will Smith’s behavior is a step toward a larger goal of protecting the safety of our performers and guests, and restoring trust in the Academy. We also hope this can begin a time of healing and restoration for all involved and impacted.
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