In the aftermath of slapping comedian Chris Rock onstage at the 94th Academy Awards this past Sunday, March 27, Will Smith is taking a step back. In a statement obtained by multiple media outlets, the actor announced on April 1 that he would be resigning his membership from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).
Smith’s statement in full read:
“I have directly responded to the Academy’s disciplinary hearing notice, and I will fully accept any and all consequences for my conduct. My actions at the 94th Academy Awards presentation were shocking, painful, and inexcusable. The list of those I have hurt is long and includes Chris, his family, many of my dear friends and loved ones, all those in attendance, and global audiences at home. I betrayed the trust of the Academy. I deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work. I am heartbroken. I want to put the focus back on those who deserve attention for their achievements and allow the Academy to get back to the incredible work it does to support creativity and artistry in film. So, I am resigning from membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and will accept any further consequences the Board deems appropriate. Change takes time and I am committed to doing the work to ensure that I never again allow violence to overtake reason.”
The actor’s voluntary departure from AMPAS, also referred to as “The Academy”, means that he can no longer vote on Oscar-nominated films and performances each year. The move, however, does not strip Smith of his eligibility for receiving potential Oscar consideration and nominations for any of his future work and projects.
David Rubin, the President of The Academy, which hosts The Oscars, accepted Smith’s “immediate resignation” in a statement released by multiple media outlets. In the statement, Rubin noted that Smith’s voluntary departure will not stop the Academy’s “disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith for violations of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, in advance of our next scheduled board meeting on April 18.”
During the March 27 Oscars telecast, Rock was onstage presenting the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature when he made a G.I. Jane joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The Red Table Talk host has a shaved head due to being diagnosed in 2018 with alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss, and has been very vocal about her diagnosis. The joke caused Smith to walk onto the stage, slap Rock, and then return to his seat, from which he yelled at Rock to, “Keep his wife’s name out of his f***ing mouth” two times to the shock of attendees of the ceremony and viewers around the world.
Just 40 minutes after the incident, Smith was up on stage again as he won The Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as Richard Williams, the father of tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams, in the film King Richard. In his acceptance speech, a tearful Smith apologized to The Academy and fellow nominees. It wasn’t until Monday, in an Instagram post, that Smith publicly apologized to Rock.
The comedian has remained largely silent since the incident, telling audience members at his comedy show in Boston on Wednesday night, according to an audio recording released by Variety that he’s, “still kind of processing what happened. … So at some point I’ll talk about that s***. And it’ll be serious, and it’ll be funny.”
Smith’s resignation from The Academy comes hours after an exclusive interview with Will Packer, one of the producers of the 2022 Oscars telecast, aired on Good Morning America. In the interview, Packer revealed that the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), was ready to arrest Smith on charges of battery, but Rock declined to press charges and advocated for Smith to stay.
Videos of the slap quickly went viral on social media and produced widespread commentary, debate, and discussion. The incident has continued to receive heavy news coverage, with new updates each following day, and largely overshadowed the other winners and the rest of the ceremony.
Forde, Kisha. "Oscars Producer Will Packer Says Chris Rock Advocated for Will Smith to Stay at Ceremony After Slap." E! Online, 1 Apr. 2022, www.eonline.com/news/1325526/oscars-producer-will-packer-says-chris-rock-advocated-for-will-smith-to-stay-at-ceremony-after-slap.
Lang, Brent. "Will Smith Resigns From Academy Over Chris Rock Oscars Slap Backlash." Variety, 1 Apr. 2022, variety.com/2022/film/news/will-smith-resigns-academy-oscars-slap-chris-rock-1235221041/.
Rubin, Rebecca. "Chris Rock Responds to Will Smith’s Oscars Slap at Standup Show: ‘I’m Still Kind of Processing What Happened’." Variety, 31 Mar. 2022, variety.com/2022/film/news/chris-rock-responds-will-smith-oscars-slap-1235218763/.
Stelter, Brian. "Will Smith Resigns from the Academy." CNN, 2 Apr. 2022, www.cnn.com/2022/04/01/entertainment/will-smith-resigns-from-academy/index.html.
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