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Will Smith barred from attending Oscars for 10 years after slap


Will Smith walks onstage and slaps Chris Rock after the comedian made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, at the 94th Academy Awards in Los Angeles, on Sunday, March 27, 2022.

By Nicole Sperling


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said late last week that Will Smith would be barred from attending the Oscars for 10 years because of the “harmful behavior” he displayed when he struck comedian Chris Rock during last month’s ceremony.


The ban came a week after the actor resigned from the organization following his violent outburst on the Oscar stage March 27.


In an open letter released after a morning meeting of the academy’s 54 governors, the group’s president, David Rubin, and its CEO, Dawn Hudson, also called Smith’s behavior “unacceptable” and admitted to not handling the situation properly during the telecast.


“For this, we are sorry,” said the statement. “This was an opportunity for us to set an example for our guests, viewers and our Academy family around the world, and we fell short — unprepared for the unprecedented.”


Smith said in a statement that “I accept and respect the academy’s decision.”


The academy declined to elaborate on whether Smith remains eligible to be nominated for Oscars, but two industry figures with knowledge of its rules and who were granted anonymity to discuss academy proceedings said Smith is still eligible to win Oscars but cannot attend the Academy Awards ceremony and other events.


The academy went on to praise Rock for “maintaining his composure under extraordinary circumstances” and thank others involved for “their poise and grace during our telecast.”


Rock did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Smith had seemed to anticipate the possibility that he would not be welcome at future ceremonies in the emotional, and polarizing, acceptance speech he gave after winning the Oscar for best actor, which he ended by saying: “I hope the academy invites me back. Thank you.”


Barring Smith from next year’s ceremony means that he will not be allowed to present the Oscar for best actress, upending a tradition in which the previous year’s best actor winner bestows the prize for the best actress category and vice versa.


The punishment could also spell trouble for the upcoming film “Emancipation,” a $100 million drama for Apple. The movie, directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Smith as a runaway slave who joins the Union army, is in postproduction and has already been touted as a possible awards contender.


Representatives for Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


Before Smith resigned, the organization had been considering expelling or suspending the actor, who walked onto the Oscar stage in the middle of the ceremony and slapped Rock for making a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, before returning to his seat, where he shouted expletives that were bleeped out of the live television broadcast. Will Smith was allowed to remain in the Dolby Theater, and soon after his outburst, he won the Academy Award for best actor and received a standing ovation.


Conflicting accounts of what happened after the outburst have plagued the academy, which has been criticized for not immediately removing Smith from the theater. The group, in its defense, said last week that it asked Smith to leave but he refused.


The telecast’s producer, Will Packer, later said in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that although Smith had been asked to leave the ceremony, Packer had urged the academy leadership not to “physically remove” him from the theater in the middle of the live broadcast.


Packer said that after he learned there were discussions of plans to physically remove Smith from the venue, he approached academy officials and told them he believed Rock did not want to “make a bad situation worse.”


But someone close to Rock who was granted anonymity to speak while the academy’s inquiry into the incident was underway said Rock was never asked directly if he wanted Smith removed.


The punishment handed down Friday means that Smith will not be allowed to attend any of the events hosted by the academy, including the Governors Awards, which are devoted to honorary Oscars and are not televised, and the annual academy luncheon, which celebrates each year’s nominees. He will also be barred from screenings the academy holds. He would presumably still be able to attend the private parties thrown each year by studios or magazines, including Vanity Fair, if he is invited.


The academy is hopeful that Friday’s actions will put to rest this incident, which has played out in the media over the past week and overshadowed the many accolades handed out at the annual telecast.


“This action we are taking today in response to Will Smith’s behavior is a step toward a larger goal of protecting the safety of our performers and guests, and restoring trust in the academy,” the academy said. “We also hope this can begin a time of healing and restoration for all involved and impacted.”

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