Chris Rock Did Not Want Police to Remove Will Smith After Slapping Incident, Oscars Producer Says
Speaking for the first time since the incident in a "Good Morning America" interview, Oscars producer Will Packer says he at first thought the slap was part of a bit the two stars had planned.
Cops were ready to put Will Smith in handcuffs after smacking Chris Rock on stage, but Rock was against it, Oscars producer Will Packer said in his first interview since the incident.
Packer told “Good Morning America’s” T.J. Holmes that he was stunned by the slap, and even thought it was part of a bit the two had planned.
“Once I saw Will yelling at the stage with such vitriol, my heart dropped. And I just remember thinking, ‘Oh no, oh no,’” Packer said.
“Because Chris handled the moment with such grace and aplomb, it allowed the show to continue,” Packer continued.
Packer was the first Oscars official Rock spoke to when he came off stage.
“I said, ‘Did he really hit you?’ And he looked at me and he goes, ‘Yeah, I just took a punch from Muhammad Ali.’ He was telling me, ‘I’m fine. Let’s just get past this. I’m getting out of here. I can’t believe this happened,” Rock said.
The LAPD showed up within minutes after the incident and were prepared to arrest Smith for battery, according to Packer. But Rock “was very dismissive of those options,” the producer said.
The leaders of the Academy were preparing to throw Smith out of the theater, but Packer says he talked them out of it.
“They were about to physically remove Will Smith. And I said Chris Rock doesn't want that. Rock has made it clear that he does not want to make a bad situation worse,” Packer said.
So Smith stayed and the show went on, but the mood in the theater was like ice.
“[Energy] sucked completely out of it. It was like somebody poured concrete in that room. It sucked the life out of that room and it never came back,” Packer said.
Packer says everyone was hoping that Smith would redeem himself in his speech after winning Best Actor.
“We were hoping that he would make it better, that he would stand on that stage and say, ‘What just happened minutes ago was absolutely and completely wrong. Chris Rock, I am so sorry. Please forgive me.’ That’s what I was hoping for,” Packer said.
Smith didn’t apologize to Rock until the next day.
On Tuesday, Smith reached out to the president and CEO of the Academy to formally apologize. It was a Zoom call that reportedly lasted six minutes.
Meanwhile, in Hollywood, many are wondering if Smith's career could be irreparably damaged.
“His brand is permanently tarnished,” one top agent was quoted as saying, comparing him to Mel Gibson, whose career was derailed by racist outbursts.
“He's definitely going to have to work to fix his public image, because right now, people are not happy with Will Smith. He doesn't really seem to feel too bad, and the apology really seems to be a PR stunt. That’s what a lot of people are saying,” Variety chief correspondent Elizabeth Wagmeister said.
Rock is still Boston, packing the theater every night for his stand-up shows.
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