Scandal at the Oscars: why Will Smith’s call to the president of the Academy caused an internal crisis

Will Smith with his Óscar.  (Photo by Lionel Hahn/Getty Images)

Will Smith with his Oscar. (Photo by Lionel Hahn/Getty Images)

Will Smith’s slap in the face of Chris Rock at the Oscars of last Sunday continues to generate seismic waves within the film industry. On Thursday it was revealed that the aggressor of the comedian and winner of the Oscar for best actor spoke by video call on Tuesday, March 29, with the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Hollywood, David Rubin, and with the CEO of the institution, Dawn Hudson.

Smith apologized for his conduct, which marred the 94th edition of the ceremony. This call has caused a crisis in the governing leadership of the Academy because its content was not explained, its existence was not even discussed, at the emergency meeting the following day, Wednesday, in which the sanction process against the protagonist of King Richard: A Winning Family.

Smith called Rubin and Hudson to convey his apology, which he posted on his Instagram account shortly afterward. The publication Variety has reported that the actor explained the reasons that made him lose his composure after hearing a joke from Rock about the shaved head of his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who suffers from alopecia. Variety assures that the video call lasted half an hour, but sources from the organization have assured Deadline that it was only six minutes.

Rubin sent the roughly 10,000 Academy members a letter Tuesday expressing his anger that the big movie night had been overshadowed by Smith’s “harmful and unacceptable” behavior.

The organism studies the possible sanctions against the actor. It was the first explicit condemnation of what happened, after on Sunday it was surprising to see how a man who had assaulted a presenter in front of millions of people who watched him on television returned to the stage minutes later to collect an award. Rubin then promised to keep all academics in the loop.

It was not so. On Wednesday, the first meeting of the governors (the board of directors that represents the 10,000 academics) was held to discuss what happened. Smith’s call to Rubin and Hudson was not mentioned at the meeting, multiple sources told Variety and Deadline. This has generated suspicions in the group of directors, among whom are Laura Dern, Whoopi Goldberg, Susanne Bier, Ava DuVernay or Steven Spielberg.

“Why would they want to hide something like that from us? It only contributes to creating an atmosphere of suspicion”, a governor who preferred to remain anonymous explained to these publications. EL PAÍS contacted one of the directors of the Academy, but he refused to speak about the process that is being followed in this unusual case in the history of the awards.

This is not the first contradictory information that comes from the institution. On Wednesday, he announced that Rubin himself and Hudson had asked Smith to leave the Dolby theater after the assault on Rock. “He refused,” the statement said. However, this version was rejected in the local media by some gala attendees, who pointed out that there was no formal or explicit request for the actor to leave his seat.

At Wednesday’s meeting of directors, it was agreed to initiate the disciplinary process against Smith, which includes 15 days for him to defend himself in writing. The decision on the punishment, which could lead to a suspension of membership or expulsion from the organization, will be communicated on April 18.

Will Smith and his wife in their seats at the Oscars.  (Myung Chun/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Will Smith and his wife in their seats at the Oscars. (Myung Chun/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

“We are prepared to arrest him”

As the days go by, new details are known about how the events unfolded on the night of the Oscars. Will Packer, the producer of the ceremony, assured in his first interview after what happened that the Los Angeles police were ready to arrest the protagonist of men in black.

“It’s an aggression’, that was the expression they used at that time. We can go for it. We are prepared. They can press charges,” law enforcement said, Packer told Good Morning America, of the ABC network, which broadcast the gala on television. There was no arrest because Rock did not want to report Smith. “They [la policía] Several options were presented to him, but Chris rejected them. He just said, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine,’” recalled Packer, who also explained that he asked the presenter to consider what the agents offered him.

Chris Rock in Boston, after the scandal that had him as the protagonist in the last installment of the Oscars

Chris Rock in Boston, after the scandal that had him as the protagonist in the last installment of the Oscars

The producer assured good morning america that Rock’s joke about Pinkett Smith was not in the script and that he went to see the comedian as soon as he left the stage. He asked if the actor had really hit him, and Rock replied, “Yeah, I just took a hit from Muhammad Ali. He immediately went into joke mode, but you could tell he was still in shock.”.

Parker also assured that at no time during the night did he speak with Smith, which denies the information published in recent days that claimed that he did. Regarding the Academy’s claim that Smith was asked to leave the gala, the producer explained that they told him they were going to do so, but that he was not part of those conversations. “I went to the Academy leaders who were on site and said, ‘Chris Rock doesn’t want that, he’s made it clear that he doesn’t want to make a bad situation worse.'” Packer also said that Smith contacted him the next morning to apologize.

Rock returned to the stage on Wednesday night. At a theater in Boston, where he was resuming his stand-up tour, he confessed to a standing-applause audience that he was “still processing everything that happened.”

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Scandal at the Oscars: why Will Smith’s call to the president of the Academy caused an internal crisis