Chris Rock Didn’t Want Will Smith To Be Pulled From The Oscars, Says Producer

(CNN) — Like many people who watched the match that ended with Will Smith slapping Chris Rock onstage at the Academy Awards ceremony, Oscars lead producer Will Packer thought it was planned.

But when Smith – angry about a joke Rock made about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith— yelled obscenities from the audience after taking the stage to confront Rock, Packer realized it was real.

“Once I saw Will screaming on stage with such virulence, my heart dropped,” Packer told TJ Holmes of ABC’s Good Morning America in an exclusive interview that aired this Friday. “And I just remember thinking, ‘Oh no. Oh no. Not like this.'”

Listen to Chris Rock talk on his show about the incident with Will Smith 2:25

“And Chris was keeping cool when everyone else was losing their cool,” he added.

Packer gave an idea of ​​what quickly has become one of the most famous and controversial moments in the history of the Academy Awards.

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Immediately after the incident, Academy leaders asked Smith, through his publicist, to leave, but he refused, he said. Packer was told that Smith was about to be physically removed, but Packer went to the Academy leaders who were there and told them Rock didn’t want that to happen, the producer told “GMA” on Friday.

“I said, ‘Rock has made it clear that he doesn’t want to make a bad situation worse,'” Packer said. “That was the energy of Chris. His tone wasn’t retaliatory, his tone wasn’t aggressively angry, so he was standing up for what Rock wanted at the time, which was not to physically take out Will Smith at the time. moment”.

Will Smith’s assault left the producer ‘devastated’

The first-time Oscars producer had “never felt so immediately devastated as he did in that moment” as he watched Smith slap Rock, Packer said, then ran toward Rock as he walked offstage to confirm that Smith had indeed punched him.

“I said, ‘Did he really hit you?'” Packer recounted. “And he looked at me and said, ‘Yes.’ He says, ‘I just took a hit from Muhammad Ali,’ like only Chris Rock can. He immediately went into joke mode, but you could tell he was still in shock.” Smith played the famous boxer in the 2001 movie “Ali.”

The show was going well up to the smackdown point, Packer said, crediting Rock’s composure with helping save the remaining portion of the show.

“Because Chris handled the moment with such grace and poise, he allowed the show to go on,” Packer said. “Because Chris continued as he did, he completed the category [mejor documental]presented the trophy to [ganador] Questlove, who is another person who I feel really stole his moment, gave us license to continue the show, which is what we were trying to do.”

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Agents from the Los Angeles Police Department soon entered Packer’s office, the producer told “Good Morning America,” telling Rock, “This is assault,” and were prepared to arrest Smith that night.

Police said, “‘We’ll go looking for him. We’re ready. We’re ready to catch him right now. You can press charges. We can arrest him,'” Packer said. “As they were talking, Chris was… being very dismissive of those options. He was like, ‘No, I’m fine.’ He was like, ‘No, no, no.'”

There has been controversy over the standing ovation Smith received for winning best actor for “King Richard” moments after he slapped Rock.

But Packer said he has a different perspective and believes people were celebrating Smith, not the action he had just taken.

“I think the people in that room who stood up defended someone they knew,” Packer said. “That he was a partner, he was a friend, he was a brother who has a career spanning over three decades of being the opposite of what we saw at the time.”

Smith publicly apologized to Rock the next day through social networks. Smith also approached Packer the next morning, apologized and expressed embarrassment, the producer said.

The Academy has initiated “disciplinary procedures” against Smith.

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Chris Rock Didn’t Want Will Smith To Be Pulled From The Oscars, Says Producer