Oscars Producer: Police Were Ready to Arrest Will Smith After Slapping Chris Rock

"The LAPD made it clear: 'We will do whatever you want us to do, and one of the options is that we will go and arrest him right now'"

will smith oscars producer interview lapd ready to arrest chris rock slap
Will Smith and Chris Rock, photo by Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

    In the aftermath of Will Smith’s now-infamous Oscars slap, the actor himself has issued an official apology, Chris Rock has shared a brief comment, and the Academy has opened up a formal investigation. Until now, we haven’t heard from anyone behind the scenes. That all changed on Friday, April 1st, when Oscars producer Will Packer revealed in an interview with Good Morning America that the police were on standby and ready to arrest Smith after he walked off the stage.

    “That is an absolute fact,” Packer told ABC News’ TJ Holmes. “The LAPD made it clear: ‘We will do whatever you want us to do, and one of the options is that we will go and arrest him right now.'”

    Going back to Oscars night, Packer revealed that Rock was “freestyling” rather than reading the jokes they had prepared off the teleprompter. As a result — like many people in attendance and at home — he initially “thought it was a bit” when Smith slapped Rock after the comedian made the “G.I. Jane 2” joke that set the incident off.


    “I thought this was part of something Chris and Will were doing on their own,” the producer explained. “I thought it was a bit like everybody else. I knew he hadn’t practiced it. I wasn’t concerned at all. I figured, ‘Okay, he’s going to say something or come at him.’ Something funny is going to happen because that’s the nature of Chris and that’s the nature of Will. So, let’s see what happens.”

    After Smith returned to his seat and yelled at Rock to “keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” however, Packer’s heart dropped. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh no, no no, not like this. Not like this,'” he said. “But I’ve got people, everybody’s still in my ear, you know, saying, ‘Okay, what are we doing on camera two? Is he still up there? Are we doing the best documentary category?’ And Chris was keeping his head when everybody was losing theirs.”

    Holmes then asked Packer to talk about what happened after Rock went off the stage. Packer said he went to Rock and promised he would back whatever the comedian wanted. “The LAPD came and needed to talk to Chris,” Packer recalled. “And so they came into my office and they were laying out very clearly what Chris’ rights were. They were saying, ‘This is battery. We will go get him. We will go get him right now, you can press charges, we can arrest him.'”


    As we now know, Rock declined to file a police report, and the Academy was ready to remove Smith from the ceremony, but the actor refused. Kicking Smith out wasn’t what Rock wanted, either.

    “It happened right before the Best Actor award,” Packer remembered. “I immediately went to the Academy leadership that was on-site and I said, ‘Chris Rock doesn’t want that.’ I said, ‘Rock has made it clear that he does not want to make a bad situation worse.'”

    As someone in the room, Packer also offered insight into the standing ovation Smith received for winning Best Actor, saying, “I think that the people in that room who stood up, stood up for somebody who they knew, who was a peer, who was a friend, who was a brother, who has a three-decades-plus-long career of being the opposite of what we saw in that moment.”


    He added, “I don’t think that these were people that were applauding anything at all about that moment, and all these people saw their friend at his absolute worst moment and were hoping that they could encourage him and lift him up and that he would somehow try to make it better.”

    And there you have it: an account of what happened after the Slap from someone who was directly involved behind the scenes. It’s apparent at this point that the news cycle is far from over; stay tuned for future updates.

    Check out clips from the interview below, and watch the full video here.