The revelation came in a new statement from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s Board of Governors, who met on Monday and voted to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Smith.
“Mr. Smith’s actions at the 94th Oscars were a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness in-person and on television,” the statement reads. “Mr. Rock, we apologize to you for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience in that moment. We also apologize to our nominees, guests and viewers for what transpired during what should have been a celebratory event.”
“Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipate,” the statement continues. “While we would like to clarify that Mr. Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognize we could have handled the situation differently.”
Prior to announcing the winner for documentary feature, Rock cracked a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair, prompting her husband Smith to walk up to Rock and strike him with his open hand.
The US broadcast quickly cut the sound, but the international feed captured the full interaction. Rock said, “Wow, Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me.” Smith returned to his seat, where he yelled out, “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!”
“Wow, dude, it was a G.I. Jane joke,” Rock retorted. Smith yelled again, “Keep my wife’s name out your fucking mouth!” (Pinkett Smith announced last year that she had shaved her head after struggling with alopecia.)
TMZ reports that both Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson met with Smith’s representatives backstage and informed them that the actor should leave the ceremony. Smith refused, and a short time later he took the stage to accept the Oscar for Best Actor.
Rock declined to press charges against Smith, but the Academy has since launched a “formal review” into the actor’s conduct. “Consistent with the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, as well as California law, Mr. Smith is being provided at least 15 days’ notice of a vote regarding his violations and sanctions, and the opportunity to be heard beforehand by means of a written response,” the Academy said. “At the next board meeting on April 18th, the Academy may take any disciplinary action, which may include suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions permitted by the Bylaws and Standards of Conduct.”
While Smith apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees during his acceptance speech that night, he didn’t apologize to Rock until the following day — probably after he was informed of the investigation. “Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally,” Smith said. “I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.”
The rest of Hollywood — including Alec Baldwin, Jim Carrey, and Oscars hosts Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes — has (unfortunately) felt the need to chime in on the Smith vs. Rock saga. Revisit our history of the actors’ fair-weather friendship here.