Oscars showrunners went to panic stations as they attempted to keep the Academy Awards on track after Hollywood megastar Will Smith surprised everyone by hitting fellow actor and comedian Chris Rock, live and on stage.
In what will probably go down as one of the most-watched moments in the history of the awards, Will Smith stormed the stage after Chris Rock made a quip about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss, before yelling ‘keep my wife’s name out of your f—king mouth.
With the incident detracting the whole 3-1/2 hour set, showrunners were left with an urgent decision to make. Let the best actor nominee stay in the Dolby Theatre, or can Will Smith, 53, from the event.
Ramin Setoodeh, executive editor of Variety magazine said that in fact, this year’s Oscars producer Will Packer even went to talk with Will Smith after the slap, approaching the actor and his wife at their table in the front row.
Will Packer is probably the person who made the decision to let the Hollywood golden boy remain in the theatre, but two insider sources told a newspaper outlet that producers asked Chris Rock whether he wanted Will Smith removed. The sources said he said no.
Will Smith hit Chris Rock, 57, as the comedian was on stage to present the documentary feature award. With the Oscars broadcast on a short time delay, ABC quickly cut the audio for 20 seconds in an attempt to dodge humiliation.
But having just been hit, Chris Rock was left on stage to conclude his presentation, and it would be more than 10 minutes before ABC eventually cut to a commercial break to remove the building tension in the room.
When they eventually did, Hollywood A-listers rushed to calm Will Smith down, with videos from inside the Dolby theatre showing performers Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry talking to the emotional nominee off stage.
Bradley Cooper was also seen embracing Will Smith, who was sitting just yards away from the stage where Chris Rock had been presenting the award.
After talking to Bradley Cooper, Will Smith returned to his seat and was seen patting his eyes with a white cloth before his publicist appeared quickly by his side.
Behind the scenes, Academy staffers and journalists alike were left dumbfounded. The academy quickly told journalists to avoid asking any other actors about the incident, despite it immediately becoming the main event.
Well, at least we know that Will Smith is human, and now we’ve seen his real personality.
An LAPD spokesman said that the department wasn’t investigating the incident and that Chris Rock would have to file a battery complaint to open an inquiry.
According to a tweet from Variety Executive Editor Ramin Setoodeh, what unfolded between Chris Rock and Will Smith was not planned and didn’t happen in rehearsals the day before.
Chris Rock was afterwards overheard saying backstage that he just got punched in the face by Muhammad Ali and he didn’t get a scratch. Will Smith played Ali in the 2001 biopic about the boxing champion.)
Soon after striking Chris Rock, Will Smith won the lead actor prize for his performance in “King Richard.” In the sports drama, Will Smith played the titular father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams.
Through tears, Will Smith apologised to the academy and his fellow contenders, but not to Chris Rock, while receiving his award.
Will Smith said that he wanted to be a vessel for love and he received a standing ovation upon winning the Oscar, and he said that he wanted to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern and that he wanted to apologise to the academy.