After a week of back-and-forth, of “wait, what did the Academy actually do?” and of other generally insufferable discourse, the producer responsible for the 2022 Oscars ceremony, Will Packer, divulged what really went down after The Slap on Sunday.
In an interview with Good Morning America, Packer credited Chris Rock with being the reason that the Oscars were able to continue on post-Slap, and said that Rock’s reaction to Will Smith storming the stage made all the difference in the production being able to continue. While Packer initially thought Smith going on stage was a bit, once he saw Smith “yelling” with “such vitriol,” his “heart sank.”
“I remember thinking: ‘Oh no, no no, not like this. Not like this.’ But I’ve got people, everybody’s still in my ear, you know, saying: ‘OK, what are we doing on camera two? Is he still up there? Are we doing the best documentary category?’ And Chris was keeping his head when everybody was losing theirs,” explained Packer of his initial reaction to the moment.
He went on to disclose that the LAPD had arrived on site shortly after The Slap and made it clear that they would go and arrest Smith. Packer shared that they told Rock, “This is battery. We will go get him. We will go get him right now, you can press charges, we can arrest him.”
“And as they were talking, Chris was being very dismissive of those options. He was like, ‘No, I’m fine.’ ... Even to the point where I said, ‘Rock, let them finish,’” Packer said. “The LAPD officers finished laying out what his options were, and they said, ‘Would you like us to take any action?’ And [Chris] said, ‘No.’”
Packer then intervened with Academy leadership, who had planned at that point to forcibly remove Smith from the show, right before Best Actor was announced. He said he advocated that Smith should stay, because that’s what Rock wanted:
“I immediately went to the Academy leadership that was on site and I said: ‘Chris Rock doesn’t want that.’ I said: ‘Rock has made it clear that he does not want to make a bad situation worse.’ His tone was not retaliatory. His tone was not aggressive or angry. So I was advocating what Rock wanted in that time, which was not to physically remove Will Smith at that time... That was only the option at that point.”
The producer also disclosed that Rock’s initial reaction post-Slap was simply to say, backstage, “Yeah, I just took a punch from Muhammad Ali.”
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