Oscars bosses hold crisis talks ‘to discuss whether to strip Will Smith of Best Actor gong’

Academy launches formal review of slap incident

Will Smith hits Chris Rock on stage. Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters

Will Smith at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party. Photo: Doug Peters/PA

Jada Pinkett Smith arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar party. Photo: Reuters/Danny Moloshok

Jake Coyle, John Dunne and Michael Howie© Evening Standard

Oscars members have condemned the actions of Will Smith during last night’s Oscars and have launched an inquiry into his slapping of presenter Chris Rock.

In a statement this evening the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences said: “The Academy condemns the actions of Mr Smith at last night’s show.

"We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our bylaws, standards of conduct and California law.”

The fallout from Smith's onstage assault continued today, as Hollywood and the public continued to wrestle with a moment that stunned the Dolby Theatre crowd and viewers at home.

Academy Awards members reportedly held emergency talks to discuss whether Smith should be stripped of his Best Actor gong for slapping comedian Chis Rock on stage.

Sources said some called for the star to be kicked out of the organisation during a crisis meeting held over Zoom.

The meeting was apparently held after Smith went on stage and hit the comedian in front of a star-studded audience at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, after Rock made a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith and her hair loss.

Pinkett Smith has previously spoken about her struggles with alopecia and said it is what prompted her to shave her head.

Smith went on to receive the Best Actor award for his role in biopic King Richard, when he apologised to the Academy and fellow nominees in a tearful acceptance speech.

A source told The Sun the Academy went into “full crisis mode” after the astonishing incident.

“Once the ceremony was over they called in key members to hold an emergency meeting about what action they should take,” the source said.

“There have been calls to have Will stripped of his Best Actor gong.

“They cannot be seen to be condoning violence in any way and there are some people in the Academy who believe they should remove the award from him to make a point.

“Others however believe he should be allowed to hold onto it.

“Chris was immediately supported backstage and has been offered a package of after care where he can talk to professionals provided by the Academy if needed.

“The Academy are taking this incredibly seriously.”

The incident prompted an enormous backlash on social media and across Hollywood, with the Academy saying it “does not condone violence in any form”.

US chat show host Whoopi Goldberg said Smith “made a mistake” but the Academy would not take his Best Actor prize away for slapping Chris Rock.

The former Oscars host said Smith had been under a lot of pressure on the night and had “snapped” and “overreacted”.

Speaking on her talk show The View, Goldberg said: “We’re not going to take that Oscar from him.

“There will be consequences, I’m sure, but I don’t think that that’s what they’ll do, particularly because Chris said, ‘Listen, I’m not pressing any charges’.

“(Smith) made a mistake...overreactions, mistakes were made. I think he overreacted.

“He had one of those moments where he was like...just stop. And you’ve got all the pressure of hoping that you win and trying to keep your face.

“I get it, not everyone acts the way we would like them to under pressure, some people just snap. He snapped.

“I don’t know if they spoke or if he apologised or not, all I know is that sometimes you get to a point and you behave badly.”

Other celebrities defended Smith, with comedian Tiffany Haddish saying the incident was “the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen”.

“When I saw a black man stand up for his wife. That meant so much to me,” she told People magazine at the Governors Ball after the ceremony.

“Maybe the world might not like how it went down, but for me, it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen because it made me believe that there are still men out there that love and care about their women, their wives.”

Smith’s son Jaden Smith (23) also appeared to defend his father’s actions, tweeting “And That’s How We Do It”.

Tennis star Serena Williams, whose father was played by Smith in King Richard, shared a video on her Instagram story showing her looking shocked, later admitting she “had to put her drink down”.

After being named best actor for his performance in King Richard, Smith used his acceptance speech to apologise to the Academy and “all my fellow nominees” - but not Rock.

Other famous faces criticised the incident, including Star Wars actor Mark Hamill, who dubbed it the “ugliest Oscar moment ever”.

He added: “Stand-up comics are very adept at handling hecklers. Violent physical assault...not so much.”

Actress Mia Farrow tweeted: “It was just a joke. Jokes are what Chris Rock does.

“Always has been edgy. This was a mild joke for him. And I love GI Jane.”

The Last Samurai producer Marshall Herskovitz urged the Academy to do more than simply issue a statement in response to the incident.

He said on Twitter: “I call upon the Academy, of which I am a member, to take disciplinary action against Will Smith.

“He disgraced our entire community tonight.”

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