Why Will Smith Was Not Eliminated From Oscars, Per Producer Will Packer – The Hollywood Reporter

Will Packer is shedding gentle on what occurred behind-the-scenes on the Oscars, after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock onstage in one of the vital surprising moments in Academy Awards historical past.

The producer of the 2022 telecast sat down with Good Morning America for an interview airing 5 days after the present, the place he responded to swirling questions on why Smith wasn’t escorted out of the present following the onstage assault, and shared his backstage conversations with Rock and the LAPD.

The first-time Oscars producer mentioned that within the reside second he, too, thought Smith smacking Rock was a bit, till Rock got here backstage and confirmed that he had actually been hit by Smith, who would additionally go on to win the perfect actor trophy of the night time to a standing ovation.

Packer, talking to T.J. Holmes, confirmed that the joke Rock made about Jada Pinkett Smith that sparked Smith to take the stage (a G.I. Jane jab referencing her shaved head; the actress has alopecia) was unscripted.

“He didn’t tell one of the planned jokes. He was immediately freestyling,” says Packer of Rock. But Packer wasn’t involved. Even when he noticed Smith take the stage, Packer says he, like everybody within the viewers, assumed it was a bit.

“Once I saw Will yelling at the stage with such vitriol, my heart dropped. And I just remember thinking, ‘Oh no, oh no. Not like this,’” recollects Packer. “Chris was keeping his head when everyone else was losing theirs. My heart was just in my stomach because of everything about it and what it represented and what it looked like and who was involved. All of that. I’ve never felt so immediately devastated like I did in that moment.”

When Rock walked off stage after the perfect documentary class presentation (which went to Questlove), Packer confirmed with Rock that Smith actually hit him.

“I just took a punch from Muhammad Ali,” Packer says Rock joked, regardless of being “very much in shock.”

Packer says that when he confirmed the bodily assault, Rock insisted to him that he was positive. The LAPD got here into Packer’s workplace and had been “laying out very clearly what Chris’ rights are. They were saying: This is battery. We will go get him. We’re prepared. We’re prepared to get him right now. You can press charges. We’ll arrest him.”

But Packer says Rock was being “very dismissive” of these choices, reiterating he was positive. “Even to the point where I said, ‘Rock, let him finish.’”

When they requested if he would really like them to take motion, Rock mentioned no.

Earlier this week, when starting disciplinary motion in opposition to Smith, which is ready to take weeks, the Academy issued an announcement saying Smith was requested to depart the present following the slap, however that he refused. The assertion didn’t present particulars, however did say in addition they “recognize we could have handled the situation differently.”

During Wednesday’s board of governors assembly following the incident, which is now underneath formal evaluation by the Academy, one board member advised The Hollywood Reporter that it nonetheless wasn’t made clear who requested Will Smith to depart, or what the sequence of occasions was. Board members are awaiting additional readability.

Speaking on GMA, Packer mentioned that, earlier than the perfect actor award, Shayla Cowan, who produced the present alongside Packer, advised him that “they” had been about to bodily take away Smith.

Packer says he had not been part of these conversations.

“I immediately went to the Academy leadership that was on site and I said, ‘Chris Rock doesn’t want that.’ I said, ‘Rock has made it clear that he does not want to make a bad situation worse.’ That was Chris’ image. His tone was not retaliatory, his tone was not aggressive and angry. And so I was advocating for what Rock wanted in that time, which was not to physically remove Will Smith at that time. Because, as it has now been explained to me, that was the only option at that point. It has been explained to me that there was a conversation that I was not a part of to ask him to voluntarily leave.”

Smith reached out to Packer personally the next morning to apologize, forward of his public apology to Rock that may come later that day on Instagram. “[Smith] said, ‘This should have been a gigantic moment for you. And he expressed his embarrassment and that was the extent of it.”

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