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Oscars producer Will Packer is breaking down what went down at the 94th Academy Awards before and after Will Smith approached the stage and slapped presenter Chris Rock for joking about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head.
In a televised interview on Friday, Packer revealed he was watching offstage when Rock took the stage to present the best documentary feature award.
“I said, ‘Watch this, he’s going to kill.’ I knew he had an amazing lineup of jokes that we had, we had them in the prompter. And ultimately he did not get to one joke. He didn’t tell one of the planned jokes, he was just immediately freestyling – but I’ll tell you, if there’s anybody you don’t worry about going out in front a live audience and riffing off the cuff, it’s Chris Rock. Nobody’s better,” Packer said on “Good Morning America.”
Things got interesting when Rock turned to Pinkett Smith and said, “Jada, I love you. ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it.” Seconds later, Smith took the stage and slapped Rock across the face. Packer said he was just as confused as everyone else.
Will Smith yells at Chris Rock from his seat at the Oscar’s after physically assaulting him on stage on Sunday, March 27, 2022. (Screenshot/ABC)
“I thought this was part of something Chris and will were doing. I thought it was a bit like everybody else. I wasn’t concerned at all. I was like ok he’s going to say something or come at him, something funny is going to happen because that’s the nature of Chris and that’s the nature of Will,” Packer added.
It wasn’t until Smith returned to his seat and shouted, “Keep my wife’s name out your f—ing mouth” that Packer grew concerned.
“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.’ Chris was keeping his head when everybody else was losing theirs…But my heart at that point was just in my stomach because everything about it and everything it represented and who was involved was just, I’ve never felt so immediately devastated like I did in that moment,” Packer continued.
Will Smith, right, hits presenter Chris Rock on stage while presenting the award for best documentary feature at the Oscars on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
(AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
The Oscars producer said he went up to Rock right after he exited the stage. “I immediately go up to Chris and I said, ‘Did he really hit you?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, I just took a punch from Muhammad Ali.” He was immediately in joke mode but he was still very much in shock.”
However, he confirmed Rock was not retaliatory, aggressive or angry when the LAPD on scene asked the comedian if he wanted to press charges against Smith.
“He was very dismissive of those options,” the producer said.
Packer added that Smith reached out to him the following morning with an apology.
Jada Pinkett Smith, left, and Will Smith hold hands in the audience at the Oscars on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
(AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
“Will Smith reached out to me the next morning and he apologized. He said this should have been a gigantic moment for you and he expressed his embarrassment and that was the extent of it,” Packer said.
The Oscars producer went on to say the slap “sucked the life out of the room and it never came back.”
The producer went on to commend Rock for handling the situation with grace.
Asked if Rock saved the show by continuing to announce the award, Packer said: “I think he did. He certainly saved what was left of it at that point.”
Meanwhile, the Academy’s Board of Governors held an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss what went down at the 94th Academy Awards.
“The Board of Governors today initiated disciplinary proceedings against Mr. 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 Academy’s statement on Wednesday obtained by Fox News Digital said.
Bradley Cooper comforts Will Smith during the show.
(Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times)
“Mr. Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, [but] we also recognize we could have handled the situation differently.”
Penalties from the academy range from “suspension, expulsion or other sanctions permitted by the bylaws and standards of conduct.” The statement noted that the actor will receive a 15-day notice regarding “his violations and sanctions” as well as the “opportunity to be heard beforehand by means of a written response.”
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