The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, host of the Oscars, has condemned Will Smith’s televised slap of presenter Chris Rock and has launched a formal review of the incident that cast a shadow over Hollywood’s glitziest night.
Smith strode on stage during the live telecast and struck Rock in the face after the comedian made a joke about the appearance of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
Less than an hour later, Smith won the best actor Oscar for his role in King Richard.
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In a statement on Monday, the 9900-member film academy said it “condemns the actions of Mr Smith at last night’s show”.
“We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law,” the statement said.
The group’s standards of conduct policy states it is “categorically opposed to any form of abuse, harassment or discrimination” and expects members to uphold the values “of respect for human dignity, inclusion, and a supportive environment that fosters creativity”.
Violations may result in suspension or expulsion from the group, revocation of Oscars, or loss of eligibility for future awards, according to the policy.
As he accepted the best actor trophy, Smith apologised to the academy and fellow nominees, but not to Rock, and said he hoped he would be invited back to the Oscars.
It is rare but not unprecedented for the film academy to revoke membership.
Producer Harvey Weinstein was expelled in 2017 after more than three dozen women accused him of sexual assault. Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski were kicked out in 2018.
Cosby was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman in 2004, though a judge later overturned the conviction. Polanski admitted to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl.
Oscars producers had been hoping for a memorable night on Sunday to rebound from record-low ratings last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.
They brought in three hosts, opened the show with Beyonce and tried to keep things moving by editing some acceptance speeches.
But it was Smith’s outburst that became the most talked-about moment of the night, with pictures and video dominating social media.
Television viewership did jump sharply from last year, to an average of 15.36 million people, according to preliminary estimates. That represented a 56 per cent boost from 2021’s record low.
Feel-good movie CODA won the best picture prize, marking a turning point in Hollywood because the film was streamed by Apple TV+ rather than heading exclusively to cinemas.
The New York Times, citing two anonymous industry officials, said there were serious discussions about removing Smith from the Dolby Theatre – the venue for the presentations – following his attack on Rock.
But time was short, because the best actor award was fast approaching, one of the sources told the newspaper, and stakeholders had varying opinions on how to proceed.
Many Hollywood celebrities denounced Smith’s actions.
“Will Smith owes Chris Rock a huge apology. There is no excuse for what he did,” filmmaker Rob Reiner said on Twitter.
Others supported Smith for defending his wife.
“That’s what your husband is supposed to do, right? Protect you,” comedian Tiffany Haddish told People magazine.
“Maybe the world might not like how it went down, but for me, it was the most beautiful thing I ever seen.”
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