On Friday, Will Smith was slapped with a 10-year ban from the Oscars after the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences disciplined him for slapping Chris Rock during the 94th Academy Awards on March 10.
The “King Richard” actor, who received his first-ever Best Actor Oscar the same night, resigned from the Academy last week, so suspension and expulsion were off the table. The Academy decided not to take back Smith’s Oscar. Instead, they banned him from attending the Oscars or any Academy events – including virtual events – for the next ten years.
Several Academy members spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about their thoughts concerning Will Smith’s punishment.
Academy Members Speak On Will Smith’s Punishment: ‘Ten Years Is Quite A Long Time’
Carol Connors, of the music branch, seemed satisfied with Smith’s punishment.
“He’s not going to be able to present next year, and I think hurray for that,” she said. “I don’t think he should be allowed on the Academy stage. What he did on the world stage was unacceptable. Ten years is an important round number. I don’t think it should have been one year or five years. Ten is appropriate.”
“But I’m glad he will not present next year, after what he did,” Connors continued. “What if Chris would have fallen down and hit his head? The one guy is what, 140 pounds soaking wet, and the other guy played Muhammad Ali. Can you imagine what must have gone through Chris’ mind at that moment? And I think he handled it with great dignity.”
However, Stephen Potter of the sound branch, thought that the ten year ban was a bit too long.
“I have to say I’m surprised at the Academy’s formal response of a 10-year ban on Mr. Smith, which is harsher than I imagined it would be. Ten years is quite a long time and it’s possible this incident will mostly be forgotten before this term concludes,” he said. “I think the Academy could have responded more quickly, but by waiting it suggests they carefully weighed their options.”
He also applauded the way Chris Rock handled the incident, saying, “Mr. Rock maintained composure under very unexpected circumstances, and I applaud him for averting what could have been a total disaster. I believe Mr. Smith’s reaction was fueled by Ms. Pinkett Smith’s glaring look, and it’s unfortunate he chose to react as he did. The opinions are split between those who do and don’t support Mr. Smith’s actions, but the fact remains this incident was very unfortunate on many levels.”
Other Members Say The Academy ‘Dropped The Ball’ Regarding Will Smith’s Oscar Slap
Larry Gleason of the executive branch criticized the Academy for not taking action immediately after the slap occurred.
“The Academy dropped the ball by not taking action when it happened,” Gleason said. “This after-the-fact punishment is like the old saying, ‘Closing the barn door…’ Too late and too little. After the La La Land fiasco, you would have thought they would have handled it better. Sad event for all concerned.”
Don Hahn of the producer branch expressed hope that the “Pursuit of Happiness” actor will be able to learn from this event. “I hope it buys time for Mr. Smith to reflect and get help with the complicated issues that seem to haunt him,” Hahn said. “And we owe Chris Rock an honorary statue and some ibuprofen for holding it all together with humility.”
‘Being Voted On By Your Peers Is Everything’
Chuck Braverman of the documentary branch said that he was “disturbed” by the Academy’s actions following the unprecedented incident.
“As a longtime member, I am disturbed by many of the actions and moves at the Academy,” he said. “The bigger issue than Will Smith is whether the Academy cares more about the value of the Oscar or the money from the network broadcast. Being voted on by your peers is everything.”
“Comic book films and franchise movies would be nominated every year if the show was written by a network buyer, but that would be self-defeating and the Oscar would be a joke,” he added. “Spending large for the museum has put the Academy into a financial hole. But a physical assault is totally unacceptable. Smith’s Oscar should be revoked and returned.”