According to sources with direct knowledge, actor Will Smith was not asked to leave the Oscars award show and in fact, was told by the producer of the show he could stay.
The Academy said Wednesday they asked Smith to leave the event after the incident but he refused. However, TMZ reports that after Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock, three sources who said they witnessed conversations between the Academy and Smith’s representatives got heated and during a commercial break about half an hour after the incident, producer Will Packer walked up to Smith and told him, “We do not want you to leave.”
Less than 10 minutes later, Smith was announced as the winner of the Best Actor Award and went back on stage where he apologized to everyone but Rock.
The Academy announced Wednesday it has “initiated disciplinary proceedings” against Smith for his conduct.
The “Board of Governors today initiated disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith for violations of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, including inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behavior, and compromising the integrity of the Academy,” the organization behind the Oscars said in a statement.
The Academy also apologized to Rock, who has benefitted from the situation as tickets for his comedy tour have skyrocketed. Additionally, several celebrities and comedians including Oscar hosts Wanda Sykes and Amy Schumer have come to his defense.
“Mr. Smith’s actions at the 94th Oscars were a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness in-person and on television. Mr. Rock, we apologize to you for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience in that moment,” the Academy added. “We also apologize to our nominees, guests and viewers for what transpired during what should have been a celebratory event.”
A second board meeting by the Academy is scheduled for April 18 and could announce a suspension or expulsion of Smith.