| 26 November 2022, Saturday |

Will Smith resigns from film academy after “inexcusable” Oscars slap

Will Smith announced his resignation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences amid continued fallout over his slap of presenter Chris Rock at the Academy Awards on Sunday. He described his actions in a written statement as “shocking, painful, and inexcusable.”

“The list of those I have hurt is long and includes Chris, his family, many of my dear friends and loved ones, all those in attendance, and global audiences at home,” he continued. “I betrayed the trust of the Academy. I deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work. I am heartbroken.”

Smith said he “will fully accept any and all consequences for my conduct.”

Academy President David Rubin wrote in a statement that the organization “had received and accepted Mr. Will Smith’s immediate resignation” and would “continue to move forward with our disciplinary proceedings” ahead of a board meeting on April 18. Smith’s resignation means he cannot participate in Oscar voting or attend certain academy events, but unless the academy decides otherwise, it does not affect his best actor win or award eligibility going forward. It is unclear whether he will attend next year’s ceremony to present best actress, as is tradition for the previous year’s best actor winner.

Before presenting the best documentary trophy to Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and his collaborators on “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised),” Rock made a crack about Smith’s wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, whom he said looked ready to appear in a “G.I. Jane” sequel. The joke, which ceremony producer Will Packer later said was unscripted, referenced Pinkett Smith’s shaved head. The actress has spoken publicly about struggling with hair loss from alopecia, an autoimmune disease.

Pinkett Smith looked unamused by Rock’s joke and, within moments, her husband made his way to the stage. He slapped Rock across the face and returned to his seat, where he yelled twice for the comedian to “keep my wife’s name out your f—ing mouth.” ABC cut the broadcast’s audio for more than 20 seconds.

Later in the ceremony, Smith won best actor — his first Oscar — for playing Richard Williams, father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, in “King Richard.” He cried while accepting the award, noting that “love will make you do crazy things,” and apologized to the academy and his fellow nominees. He also thanked the Williams family for “entrusting me with their story” as the tennis stars looked on from their seats in the Dolby Theatre.

Smith did not apologize to Rock until issuing a statement on Instagram the next day.

On Wednesday, after the academy’s board of governors met to initiate “proceedings against Mr. Smith” for violating its standards of conduct, the organization announced that Smith was asked to leave the ceremony after slapping Rock but refused. What exactly happened has been disputed; Packer said on “Good Morning America” earlier Friday that he had not been privy to Smith being asked to leave voluntarily but that he did relay to “academy leadership” that Rock did not want Smith physically removed from the theater. However, a person close to Rock who declined to speak on the record said that the comedian was never asked if he wanted Smith removed from the ceremony, only if he wanted to press charges, which Rock ultimately declined to do.

The academy also apologized to the stand-up comedian in its statement Wednesday and noted that “things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated.”

That same day, Rock performed for a sold-out crowd at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston. He was greeted by a standing ovation and asked the audience to “let me do a show, y’all.” He said he was “still kind of processing what happened,” declining to elaborate further on his emotions surrounding the slap.

In his resignation statement, Smith also expressed his desire for the attention paid to his actions and the various responses to it to be redirected.

“I want to put the focus back on those who deserve attention for their achievements,” he said, “and allow the Academy to get back to the incredible work it does to support creativity and artistry in film.

  • The Washington Post