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Academy says Will Smith was asked but refused to leave Oscars after Chris Rock slap

Smith could face expulsion from the Academy for the open-handed slap.

Will Smith slapping Chris Rock on stage at the Oscars on Sunday.
Will Smith slapping Chris Rock on stage at the Oscars on Sunday.
Image: Chris Pizzello

WILL SMITH REFUSED to leave the Oscars ceremony after attacking comedian Chris Rock, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said yesterday as it began disciplinary action against the actor.

Smith could face expulsion from the Academy for the open-handed slap, which came moments before he was handed the best actor award for his role in King Richard.

“While we would like to clarify that Mr Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognise we could have handled the situation differently,” a statement said.

The Academy, the body that hands out the Oscars, said it would hold a vote on what action should be taken against Smith over the globally televised assault, which marred Hollywood’s most important evening.

“The Board of Governors today initiated disciplinary proceedings against Mr Will 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 statement said.

“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.

“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.”

The group is under intense pressure to respond appropriately to the slap, which has dominated coverage of the awards and taken the spotlight from several notable firsts – including for the mainly deaf cast of CODA, which won best picture.

Expulsion from the exclusive club is rare, but not unheard of: Harvey Weinstein was kicked out in 2017 after reports emerged of decades of sexual assault.

Director Roman Polanski was expelled in 2019 after years of controversy about his 1978 conviction for the rape of a 13-year-old girl.

Neither man was stripped of their Oscars.

Attendees of the ceremony Sunday watched as Smith stormed onstage and hit Rock, who had made a joke about his actress wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s closely cropped head – which angered Smith because she has alopecia, a condition that causes her to lose hair.

Rock managed to keep the gala on track, but the atmosphere at the event had shifted unmistakably.

Less than half an hour later, when accepting the movie world’s highest honour for an actor, Smith tearfully claimed: “Love will make you do crazy things.”

Smith subsequently apologised to Rock in an Instagram post, and Pinkett Smith posted on the platform that now was “a season for healing”.

Rock finally spoke publicly about the episode to a sold-out crowd in Boston on Wednesday.

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“How was your weekend?” he asked the audience as he took to the stage, before adding that he didn’t have any material about the slap.

“If you came to hear that, I have a whole show I wrote before this weekend,” Variety reported him saying. “I’m still kind of processing what happened.

“At some point I’ll talk about that shit,” he added. “And it will be serious and funny.”

In its Wednesday statement, the Academy offered its apologies to Rock over the “deeply shocking, traumatic event”.

“Mr. Rock, we apologise to you for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience in that moment,” the Academy said.

© AFP 2022

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