The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will ban actor Will Smith from all its events, virtually or in person, for 10 years.
This was Smith’s punishment for infamously walking onstage at the Oscars to slap comedian Chris Rock after he joked about Smith’s wife’s hair. The Academy’s board of governors met Friday to decide what to do about him.
“We want to express our deep gratitude to Mr. Rock for maintaining his composure under extraordinary circumstances. We also want to thank our hosts, nominees, presenters and winners for their poise and grace during our telecast,” read a statement by the Academy. “This action we are taking today in response to Will Smith’s behavior is a step toward a larger goal of protecting the safety of our performers and guests, and restoring trust in the Academy. We also hope this can begin a time of healing and restoration for all involved and impacted.”
Will Smith resigned from the Academy last week. In his statement, Smith said his actions at the Oscars were 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,” Smith wrote. “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.”
Smith also wrote that he was committed to changing himself “to never again allow violence to overtake reason.”
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Ten years – that is how long the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will ban Will Smith. This punishment comes after Smith walked on stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock during the Oscars ceremony. It was a moment that left viewers around the world stunned.
And here to walk us through the Academy’s decision is NPR’s Mandalit del Barco. Hi, Mandalit.
MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Hello.
CHANG: Hello. So 10 years – I mean, God, a whole decade. Can you just tell us about the board’s decision?
DEL BARCO: Yeah, well, that decision was made by the Academy’s Board of Governors, which includes director Ava DuVernay and Steven Spielberg and actors Whoopi Goldberg, Rita Wilson and Laura Dern. And what they said was they accepted Will Smith’s resignation from the academy and that he would be banned from participating in all events, virtual and in-person, until April of the year 2032. They didn’t say anything about him having to give back the best actor Oscar that he won.
In a statement today after they voted to ban Smith, the board thanked Chris Rock for, quote, “maintaining his composure under extraordinary circumstances.” They also thanked the ceremony’s host, nominees, presenters and winners for their poise and grace during the telecast. And they said their action in response to Will Smith’s behavior was a step toward a larger goal of protecting the safety of their performers and guests and restoring trust in the academy.
CHANG: Well, I know that we all keep on reliving this moment, but Mandalit, you were actually there…
DEL BARCO: Yeah.
CHANG: …Inside at the Oscars ceremony. I just want to ask you, what was it like sitting there when Will Smith smacked Chris Rock?
DEL BARCO: Well, it was very stunning. I was in the balcony, and I watched everything happen. Chris Rock told a joke about Will Smith’s wife’s hair. And then Will Smith walked on stage and face-slapped him with the palm of his hand. And you could hear the slap because Rock was miked.
(SOUNDBITE OF OSCARS CEREMONY)
CHRIS ROCK: Uh-oh (laughter).
(SOUNDBITE OF SLAP LANDING)
ROCK: Oh, wow. Wow.
DEL BARCO: And then Smith sat back down and yelled at Rock very sternly, twice, with expletives. The audio was muted on TV, but even from where I was sitting, you could hear him very clearly. And apparently, Jada Pinkett Smith had been losing hair because of her condition, alopecia.
So then, as you know, Ailsa, a short while after the slap, Will Smith accepted the best actor award for his role in the film “King Richard.” And he tearfully apologized to the Academy, but not to Rock – not to Chris Rock until the next day. Then Will Packer, a co-producer of the ceremony, he told ABC that the Los Angeles Police had asked Chris Rock if he wanted to press charges against Smith for battery.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “GOOD MORNING AMERICA”)
WILL PACKER: Chris was – he was being very dismissive of those options. He was like, no, I’m fine. He was like, no, no, no.
DEL BARCO: Now the Academy condemned Smith’s behavior, and they threatened to possibly suspend or end his membership. But before they could do that, Smith resigned. You know, a friend of mine said it was like breaking up with somebody before they dump you.
CHANG: (Laughter) That’s an apt analogy. I mean, what happens next to Will Smith beyond this? Like, what other fallout could he be facing?
DEL BARCO: Well, the Academy’s standards of conduct rules are not tied to any awards eligibility, so it’s possible that Will Smith could be nominated or even win an Oscar for any work he does in the next ten years. We’re reaching out to other organizations to see if the ban will affect any other awards or ceremonies he’s allowed to participate in.
But so far, the damage has been to Will Smith’s career. The Hollywood Reporter says Netflix has backed away from Smith and its upcoming film “Fast And Loose.” And reportedly, Sony has postponed a project he was supposed to be starting with them, the film “Bad Boys 4.” You know, there might be other fallout to Will Smith’s acting roles, his brand and his family’s work.
CHANG: That is NPR’s Mandalit del Barco in Los Angeles. Thank you, Mandalit.
DEL BARCO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.