Will Smith refused to leave the Oscars ceremony after slapping presenter Chris Rock, according to Hollywood’s film academy, which has begun a procedure that could result in the best actor winner’s expulsion from the organization.
Smith marched up to the stage during the live program after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife’s appearance, then smacked the comedian in the face. The actor returned to his seat and hurled obscenities at Rock twice more.
Smith collected the best actor award less than an hour later, prompting questions about why he had not been escorted out.
“Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated,” said the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Oscars, in a statement.
“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.”
The academy said it started a process that could lead to discipline against Smith for violations of its standards of conduct, “including inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behavior, and compromising the integrity of the Academy.”
At its next board meeting on April 18, the board may approve suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions.
In a statement released on Monday, Smith apologized to Rock, the academy, and viewers claiming he was “out of line” and “reacted emotionally.”
The 1997 film “G.I. Jane” was mentioned by Rock in which actress Demi Moore shaved her head. It’s unclear whether Rock was aware that Pinkett Smith suffers from a hair-loss condition.
Rock made his first public comments about the incident at a stand-up show in Boston on Wednesday evening, saying he was still “processing” what happened and will speak about it later.
“It’ll be serious. It’ll be funny, but right now I’m going to tell some jokes,” he told a sold-out crowd.
Smith has the opportunity to respond in writing before the academy takes action, according to academy rules. On Wednesday, Smith’s representatives did not reply to a request for comment.
The academy apologized to Rock and thanked him for his “resilience at that moment” in a statement.
Following the event, the comedian swiftly regained his composure and named Questlove’s “Summer of Soul” the winner of the outstanding documentary.
Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes, who co-hosted the Oscars, said they were sickened by the turn of events at the film industry’s highest honors.
“Still triggered and traumatized,” Schumer said in a post on Instagram on Wednesday. “I love my friend @chrisrock and believe he handled it like a pro. Stayed up there and gave an Oscar to his friend @questlove and the whole thing was so disturbing.”
“So much pain in @willsmith anyway I’m still in shock and stunned and sad,” she added. “Waiting for this sickening feeling to go away from what we all witnessed.”
Sykes also described the experience as “sickening” and said she felt sick at the time. “I’m still a little traumatized,” she remarked in recordings from an interview on Ellen DeGeneres‘ talk show broadcast on Wednesday.
Smith should have been kicked out of the event and not allowed to win his prize for playing the father of tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams in “King Richard,” according to Sykes.
“For them to let him stay in that room and enjoy the rest of the show and accept his award, I was like how gross is this? This is just the wrong message,” she said.
The clash with Rock overshadowed the night’s honors, which were won by the touching film “CODA.” The ceremony was co-hosted by Regina Hall, Schumer, and Sykes.