Oscars attack: Academy bosses release rare statement condemning Smith's actions

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 29 Mar 2022, 7:18am

Oscars attack: Academy bosses release rare statement condemning Smith's actions

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 29 Mar 2022, 7:18am

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In a rare statement, The Oscars film academy has said it "condemns" Will Smith's slapping of Chris Rock during the 94th Academy Awards. 

They also revealed that they have now launched a formal review of the incident and in a statement said it would "explore further action and consequences" in accordance with California law, and the body's standards of conduct. 

The news comes after organisers of the Academy Awards held emergency Zoom talks to discuss stripping Will Smith of his Best Actor Oscar after the A-list star assaulted comedian Chris Rock on stage at the ceremony. 

While no decision has been immediately announced, the assault - which occurred after Rock made a joke about Smith's wife Jada Pinkett-Smith - left audiences in shock at what has been described as the ugliest moment in Oscars history and has caused deep consternation among Academy members. 

Oscar bosses are reported to be split over whether to take the actor's trophy for his role in King Richard because the assault breaks a new code of conduct drawn up by The Academy in the wake of #MeToo movement and the sex crimes of Harvey Weinstein. 

The Daily Mail reported that members, including Smith himself, "have agreed to behave in a way that never violates 'the integrity of the Academy by their actions' or face suspension or expulsion". 

A source told The Sun: "Once the ceremony was over they called in key members to hold an emergency meeting about what action they should take. 

"There have been calls to have Will stripped of his Best Actor gong. They cannot be seen to be condoning violence in any way and there are some people in the Academy who believe they should remove the award from him to make a point. Others however believe he should be allowed to hold on to it." 

The carefully laid plans of the 94th Academy Awards were dramatically upended when Smith strode onto the stage and slapped Rock after the comedian made a joke referencing Pinkett-Smith's shaven head - she suffers from alopecia. The day after, Hollywood and viewers were still wrestling with an incident that seemed sure to define one of the movie's most famous and candid stars. 

Smith parties into night 

New footage shows the newly crowned Best Actor winner partying into the Hollywood night following a chaotic awards ceremony. 

"It's been a beautiful night," said Smith, as he held court at the famous Vanity Fair after-party. Social media images show the A-list star dancing and singing to his own music. 

The 55-year-old posed for selfies, danced with friends and rapped along to his biggest hits including Summertime and Gettin' Jiggy Wit It at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. 

The Hollywood Reporter website said Smith entered the party with his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith, children Willow, Trey and Jaden and friends. Inside, he was embraced by the likes of Lupita Nyong'o, Lena Waithe and Trevor Noah. 

Earlier, the furious actor left audiences stunned at the Oscars ceremony when he shouted at a speechless Rock to "keep my wife's name out of your f***ing mouth". 

There are calls for him to lose his Oscar because of his attack, the Mail reported. Chris Rock has told LAPD he does not want to press charges. 

In further tense scenes, Smith then won the award for Best Actor, crying as he told the audience he wanted to "defend" his family and was sick of plastering on a smile while being "disrespected." 

It was a bizarre, messy, ugly display from one of Hollywood's biggest stars, playing out live on TV as the world watched. 

Oscars audience was left reeling when Smith walked on to the stage to take a swing at Rock. 

The exchange began when Rock took aim at Smith's wife Jada Pinkett-Smith's shaved head. He had poked fun at other husband-and-wife stars before turning to Pinkett-Smith to say, "Jada, I love you. GI Jane 2, I can't wait to see it." 

The lead character in GI Jane has a shaved head. 

Pinkett-Smith, who is bald, revealed in 2018 she was diagnosed with alopecia. She rolled her eyes and looked at her husband following Rock's comments. 

While Rock grinned and told the audience, "that was a nice one", all of a sudden Smith was out of his seat and storming towards Rock before taking a swing at the comedian. Smith struck him in the face with his right hand, hard. 

Chris Rock appears to be struck by Will Smith on stage. Photo / Getty Images

Chris Rock appears to be struck by Will Smith on stage. Photo / Getty Images 

A shocked Rock responded: "Wow. Will Smith just smacked the s*** out of me." 

"That was the greatest night in the history of television," said an obviously shaken Rock, before resuming his role as presenter. 

Smith then returned to his seat where he yelled: "Keep my wife's name out of your f***ing mouth." 

He repeated: "Yes. Keep my wife's name out of your f***ing mouth." 

Rock has declined to file a police report. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) confirmed that it is aware of the incident but says an individual, presumed to be Rock, has declined to file the police report. 

"LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program. The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report," the LAPD said in a statement. 

Rock also made a joke about Pinkett-Smith at the 2016 Oscars where he quipped: "Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna's panties. I wasn't invited! Oh, that's not an invitation I would turn down!" 

Soon after the incident, Will Smith was back on stage, accepting the Best Actor Oscar for King Richard. 

In what became the most anticipated acceptance speech of the show, he told the audience the character of Richard was a fierce defender of his family. He said he was being called on in his life to protect people and that he wanted to be "a vessel for love." 

"I'm being called on in my life to love people and to protect people ... you've got to be able to take abuse. You have to be able to have people talk crazy about you. You have to be able to have people disrespect you. 

"You have to smile and pretend like that's okay." 

A few minutes after the assault and before the Best Actor award, rapper Sean Combs - on stage to introduce a tribute to "The Godfather" - tried to play peacemaker and suggested Smith and Rock settle their differences at an Oscars afterparty. 

"Will and Chris, we're going to solve that like family at the Gold party," Combs said. 

The reverberations did not stop there. Several people approached Smith and Pinkett Smith in the commercial breaks that followed; Keith Urban hugged Smith during one stoppage in the show, Nicole Kidman also went over to say a few words as well. 

During an ad break, fellow actor Denzel Washington pulled Smith aside to speak to him and was then seen kneeling by Pinkett Smith with his arm around her. 

As Smith accepted his award moments later, he revealed Washington had just told him: "At your highest moment, be careful, that's when the Devil comes for you." 

Smith apologised to the Academy and his fellow nominees before becoming emotional: 

"I'm not crying for winning an award. It's about being able to shine a light on the people ... the entire Williams family. I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams." 

He laughed before continuing: "This moment is really complicated for me. 

"Thank you for this honour. Thank you for this moment, and thank you on behalf of the entire Williams family. 

"Thank you and I hope Academy invites me back." 

The internet was quick to respond to the Fresh Prince star's attack, erupting with questions about whether the incident was scripted or an unexpected outburst by Smith.