The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is promising to take some form of unspecified action at some future date over the incident at the Oscars awards show Sunday night in which actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock.
A letter to members that was obtained by Variety says that, “To be clear, we condemn Mr. Smith’s actions that transpired Sunday night.”
“Sunday’s telecast of the 94th Oscars was meant to be a celebration of the many individuals in our community who did incredible work this past year. We are upset and outraged that those moments were overshadowed by the unacceptable and harmful behavior on stage by a nominee,” the letter said.
The letter said, “the Academy’s Board of Governors will now make a determination on appropriate action for Mr. Smith. As governed by California law regarding members of nonprofit organizations like the Academy, and set forth in our Standards of Conduct, this must follow an official process that will take a few weeks.”
In indicating that not much may happen for some time, the letter asks those to whom it was sent “that you respect your Board, Academy staff and the process as this unfolds, so it can work in the considered way it was intended and mandated.”
“Please trust that the Board of Governors will conduct this process in a manner that is both expedient and respectful of all involved while maintaining the standards of the Academy,” concluded the letter from David Rubin, president of the Academy, and Dawn Hudson, its CEO.
Tiffany Haddish defends Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the #Oscars: “When I saw a Black man stand up for his wife. That meant so much to me…that’s what your husband is supposed to do, right? Protect you.” https://t.co/EC3BnTNVda
— Variety (@Variety) March 28, 2022
The slap was apparently triggered by a joke Rock made about Smith’s wife, although video of the incident shows that when Rock first made the joke, Smith appeared to offer a polite smile. After the incident, the show continued as if nothing had happened, and Smith later received an Oscar for best actor.
Should Will Smith’s Oscar be taken away from him?
Actor Jim Carrey said the audience should not have given Smith a standing ovation when his win was announced.
“I was sickened. I was sickened by the standing ovation,” Carrey said in an interview that aired Tuesday, according to the New York Post.
“Hollywood is just spineless en masse, and it really felt like this is a really clear indication that we aren’t the cool club anymore,” Carrey continued.
— Maurice Ash (@ItsMauriceAsh) March 29, 2022
“That insult is gonna last a very long time. If you want to yell from the audience and show disapproval or say something on Twitter [, that’s OK, but] you do not have the right to walk up onstage and smack somebody in the face ‘cuz they said words.”
The incident “cast a pall over everybody’s shining moment,” Carrey said. “It was such a selfish moment that cast a pall over the whole thing.”
But how to punish Smith could be tricky.
A Will Smith thought, because there just aren’t enough of those on Twitter: I genuinely do not understand “Take away his Oscar!” He won. It’s not as if we found out he somehow won by cheating. And what then, give it to whoever came in second? Memory-wipe everyone? It’s silly.
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) March 29, 2022
“I don’t think [the academy] will take away his Oscar,” said Matthew Belloni, the former editor of the Hollywood Reporter, according to The Washington Post. “I think the feeling is that the Oscar is for the work, and he earned the Oscar, but the punishment will be for his behavior.”
That said, he expects some kind of suspension or other “significant punishment” will follow.
“I think it’s underplayed how embarrassing this is for many academy members. This is their identity. This is their business. This is their craft. And they care a lot about the Oscars. … To have something like this completely kneecap the event and take all the wind out of it and the attention away from the craft and the winners is very angering and embarrassing for a lot of these members,” he said. “If the academy does nothing, there will be a small but vocal uprising within the membership that is very upset.”