Will Smith’s first Academy Awards win for King Richard and a number other momentous achievements of Sunday evening — including 73-year-old veteran Samuel L. Jackson being presented with his first Oscars award by Denzel Washington — were overshadowed by Smith slapping Chris Rock in the alleged defense of The Fresh Prince’s wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith.
Since that night, many viewers asked why Smith wasn’t immediately escorted from Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre after the incident. The academy went on social media the following day to say that it did not “condone violence of any form,” yet failed to address why Smith was still allowed to stay in the venue and receive his award. So they issued a follow-up statement yesterday clarifying the matter.
“Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated,” the academy said in a statement. “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.”
“Mr. Smith’s actions at the 94th Oscars were a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness in-person and on television,” the statement added. It went on to further express regret to Chris Rock and everyone else who watched or was involved with the 94th Academy Awards. “Mr. Rock, we apologize to you for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience in that moment. We also apologize to our nominees, guests and viewers for what transpired during what should have been a celebratory event.”
However, academy president David Rubin and chief executive Dawn Hudson were much more direct in an internal letter to its members with the brief sentence: “To be clear, we condemn Mr. Smith’s actions that transpired Sunday night.”
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has only ever banned five people from its ranks since the academy’s inception: Carmine Caridi, cinematographer Adam Kimmel, Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski, and Bill Cosby. Although Smith’s pending expulsion is not guaranteed, the assault on Chris Rock will likely be a permanent blemish on his otherwise distinguished career.
Tony Rock, Chris’ younger brother, went on Twitter Tuesday to dispel a number of rumors about The Oscars’ post-show aftermath, including whether Smith and Chris actually patched things up. But Chris himself finally appeared at Boston’s Wilbur Theater Wednesday night, and the audience received the 57-year-old comedian with a standing ovation, per Variety.
“How was your weekend?” he jokingly asked the packed house to a wave of laughter. “I don’t have a bunch of shit about what happened, so if you came to hear that, I have a whole show I wrote before this weekend. I’m still kind of processing what happened. So, at some point I’ll talk about that shit. And it will be serious and funny.”
“I’m going to tell some jokes,” Rock added. “It’s nice to just be out.”
It must be noted that sources say Smith was never actually asked to leave, per TMZ.