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Will Smith refused to leave Oscars after Chris Rock slap, Academy says

Will Smith attending the Vanity Fair Oscar Party held at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (Doug Peters/PA)
Will Smith attending the Vanity Fair Oscar Party held at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (Doug Peters/PA)

Oscar winner Will Smith was asked to leave the 94th annual awards show after slapping Chris Rock on stage, but refused, the Academy has said.

Smith, 53, won the leading actor gong for King Richard, but had stormed on stage prior to winning after reacting to a joke made by comedian Rock which referred to his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head.

A formal review into the incident has been launched to discuss what disciplinary measures will be taken, and Smith will reportedly be given the chance to provide a written defence before the Academy board meets again on April 18.

The Academy, whose board of governors met on Wednesday, said disciplinary action for Smith could include suspension, expulsion or other sanctions, and added in a statement: “Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated.

Oscars Chris Rock
Chris Rock, left, arrives at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston before a performance on Wednesday, March 30 (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

“While we would like to clarify that Mr Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognise we could have handled the situation differently.”

The Academy issued a statement on Sunday night following the incident, but on Wednesday added that Smith’s actions were “a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness in-person and on television”.

They added: “Mr Rock, we apologise to you for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience in that moment. We also apologise to our nominees, guests and viewers for what transpired during what should have been a celebratory event.”

Smith returned to his seat in the Dolby Theatre after slapping Rock, shouting twice to the stage: “Keep my wife’s name out of your f****** mouth.”

Rock had joked about Jada’s buzzcut, saying on stage: “Jada, can’t wait for GI Jane 2”.

94th Academy Awards
Will Smith, right, hits presenter Chris Rock on stage while presenting the award for best documentary feature at the Oscars on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

The Magic Mike XXL star and Red Table Talk host has previously spoken about her struggles with alopecia and how it had prompted her to shave her head.

A shocked Rock continued to present the best documentary feature gong which was won by Summer Of Soul.

Smith later returned to the stage accept the Oscar and gave an emotional speech about the importance of protecting family.

Rock, 57, addressed the incident publicly for the first time at a stand-up show in Boston on Wednesday night.

According to audio from the gig, shared by Hollywood trade outlet Variety, Rock told audiences: “How was your weekend? I don’t have a bunch of shit about what happened, so if you came to hear that, I have a whole show I wrote before this weekend.

“I’m still kind of processing what happened. So, at some point I’ll talk about that shit. And it will be serious and funny.”

Oscars Chris Rock
Chris Rock, left, outside the Wilbur Theatre in Boston before a stand-up performance on Wednesday (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

He was reportedly given a standing ovation by his audience before his set.

Smith issued a formal apology to Rock on Instagram, admitting he had reacted “emotionally” to the joke, but said “violence in all its forms is poisonous and destructive”.