The 94th Annual Academy Awards certainly became one to remember. Although Troy Kotsur became the second Deaf actor to pick up an Oscar and Ariana DeBose became the first openly gay woman of color to win, the night was overshadowed when Chris Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, by referring to her as “G.I. Jane.”
Will Smith stormed the stage, slapped Rock, and then sat back down, shouting, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f—ing mouth” twice. Rock held it together and continued on with the presentation, and, a short while later, Smith tearfully took the stage to accept his first-ever Best Actor Oscar for his role in “King Richard.”
But a lot of people have a lot of questions about why Will Smith was allowed to stay at the show and receive his Oscar after he just committed assault. On Friday, only five days after the show, producer Will Packer sat down with “Good Morning America” to attempt to answer some of those questions.
Will Packer Said Chris Rock Was ‘Very Much In Shock’ After Will Smith’s Slap
EXCLUSIVE: #Oscars producer Will Packer tells @GMA what happened behind the scenes after actor Will Smith slapped host Chris Rock live on stage. @tjholmes https://t.co/AeoYcGkM32 pic.twitter.com/xe9E2cFo8N
— Good Morning America (@GMA) April 1, 2022
The first-time Oscars producer said that, at least in the moment, when he saw Will Smith storm the stage, he thought it was a bit, as did many in the audience. However, when Rock came backstage, he confirmed that he really had been struck by Smith. Packer also said that the joke about “G.I. Jane”, which mocked Smith’s alopecia (an auto-immune disease that causes hair loss) was unscripted.
“He didn’t tell one of the planned jokes,” Packer said. “He was immediately freestyling.”
Packer admitted that he thought that it was a bit until he heard Smith yelling and swearing from his seat.
“Once I saw Will yelling at the stage with such vitriol, my heart dropped,” he recalled. “And I just remember thinking, ‘Oh no, oh no, not like this…”
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He said that “Chris was keeping his head when everyone else was losing theirs. My heart was just in my stomach because of everything about it and what it represented and what it looked like and who was involved. All of that. I’ve never felt so immediately devastated like I did in that moment.”
After Rock left the stage, Packer recalled asking him, “‘Did he really hit you?” He said that Rock looked at him and said, “Yeah. I just took a punch from Muhammad Ali.”
“He was right away in joke mode, but you could tell that he was in complete shock,” he added.
Will Packer Said That Chris Rock Was ‘Very Insistent’ That They Did Not Arrest Will Smith
EXCLUSIVE: #Oscars producer Will Packer tells Good Morning America about the frenetic aftermath of actor Will Smith slapping host Chris Rock live on stage on Hollywood’s biggest night. https://t.co/AeoYcGkM32 pic.twitter.com/8z35t8TPFw
— Good Morning America (@GMA) April 1, 2022
Packer recalled how LAPD officers came to his office almost immediately after the slap occurred, and used the term “battery” to describe the infamous slap seen around the world.
“They were saying, you know, this is battery, was the word they used in that moment,” Packer recalled. “They said we will go get him; we are prepared. We’re prepared to get him right now. You can press charges. We can arrest him. They were laying out the options, and as they were talking, Chris was being very dismissive of those options. He was like, ‘No, I’m fine.’ He was like, ‘No, no, no.’”
Rock was apparently being so “very dismissive” of the options that at one point, Packer felt he needed to step in. “Even to the point where I said ‘Rock, let them finish,’” he recalls saying.
He’s in a deep state of humiliation fr. You can read on his face. will is wrong for this. We love you Chris R ❤️#humillation#SlapChrisRock#ChrisRock#WillSmith#introvert #introverts #introvertmemes pic.twitter.com/gWXOyNGbaO
— Mr Stanlei (@mrstanlei) March 30, 2022
When asked about Will Smith’s standing ovation, Packer said, “The people in that room who stood up stood up for somebody that they knew — he was a peer, a friend, a brother.”
“He has a three-decades-plus career of being the opposite of what we saw in that moment,” he went on. “These people saw the person that they know and they were hoping that somehow, some way, this was an aberration.”
Packer also expressed disappointment that Smith did not apologize to Rock during his speech. “If he wasn’t going to give that speech which made it truly better, then yes,” he said it would have been better if Smith had not stayed. “Because then you don’t have the optics of somebody who committed this act, didn’t nail it in terms of a conciliatory acceptance speech in that moment, who continued to be in that room.”
On Tuesday’s episode of “The View,” Whoopi Goldberg indicated that she agreed with Will Packer’s decision not to throw Smith from the auditorium. However, Packer says that it was Rock’s decision to let Smith stay.
“They were about to physically remove Will Smith,” he said. “I wasn’t part of those conversations. …Rock has made it clear that he didn’t want to make a bad situation worse.”
The Academy’s Board of Governors is investigating the incident and will discuss disciplinary actions for Smith later this month.
The full segment of “The View,” along with Whoopi’s explanation as to why Smith was not thrown out, can be seen below.
WILL SMITH APOLOGIZES TO CHRIS ROCK: The actor apologized for slapping comedian Chris Rock following a joke he made about wife Jada Pinkett Smith at the #Oscars — #TheView panel weighs in after Smith’s mother spoke out saying she was “surprised” by his behavior. pic.twitter.com/j1Vana6eAX
— The View (@TheView) March 29, 2022