On Sunday, March 27, 2022 at the 94th Academy Awards the festivities were interrupted by a violent altercation between one of the presenters and one of the Academy Award recipients.
After Chris Rock made light of Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss and shaved head with an insensitive and unscripted “joke”, Academy Award winner Will Smith took it upon himself to march up to the stage and slap Rock with an open palm and then casually return to his seat before shouting expletives at the comedian.
Chris Rock declined to file a police report or press charges against the Academy Award-winning actor for the misdemeanor assault, however the LAPD is standing by if he changes his mind. LAPD released a statement that said, “The incident involved one individual slapping another,” the statement read. “The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”
Since the events unfolded, Hollywood and the international entertainment industry have been dealing with the aftermath. The incident sparked a debate online and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts was very clear and concise regarding their stance on the matter when Sara Putt, chair of BAFTA’s television committee and deputy chair of BAFTA spoke exclusively with The Hollywood Reporter.
“They would be removed from the ceremony,” said Putt, when asked what BAFTA would do if put in a similar situation. Putt noted that there would be no opportunity for the individual in question to later collect any award or give a speech, as Smith had controversially been allowed to do at the Dolby Theater. “They would not be in the buildings, so they would not physically be able to collect their award,” she said.
“We do not tolerate violence of any kind,” added Emma Baehr, BAFTA’s executive director of awards and content, noting that BAFTA had been leading with the British Film Institute on bullying harassment guidelines.
Concluded Putt: “It’s just a complete red line for us.”
The producer of the Oscars, Will Packer, weighed in with his initial thoughts on Monday morning:
Many have criticized the Academy Awards for not immediately removing Smith as Sarah Putt claimed BAFTA would have done. The View co-host and Academy Governor, Whoopi Goldberg explained in a discussion on the show why Smith was not removed from the awards ceremony. “The reason they didn’t go and take him out is because that would have been another 15-20 minute explanation of why we’re taking the Black man out five seconds before they’re about to decide whether he’s won an Oscar or not,” Whoopi said on The View on Tuesday. “And I’m gonna say I believe Will Packer made the right decision.
He said, ‘Let’s get through the rest of this so we can deal with it wholeheartedly.’ So, that’s what went on.” She went on to say, “This is not the first time craziness has happened on stage, this is the first time we’ve seen anybody assault anybody on stage.”
The entire segment can be seen here:
Some of the “craziness” Whoopi could be referring to might be the time in 1973 when Marlon Brando boycotted the Academy Awards and refused to accept the Best Actor award for his role in The Godfather. He was attempting to protest against the treatment of Native Americans in Hollywood and bring attention to the Wounded Knee Occupation.
Brando sent Native American actress and civil rights activist Sacheen Littlefeather to decline his award, giving her the platform to share the plight of Native Americans in an eloquent speech written by Brando.
Unfortunately, she was met with hostility at the awards and was told she only had 60 seconds to complete the speech or she would be arrested. She had no choice but to improvise the speech as she refused to even touch the award statue, per Brando’s request.
Allegedly, during the speech, John Wayne attempted to rush the stage to assault the actress and activist. Later on during the show, Clint Eastwood went on stage to present the Best Film award and mocked Littlefeather, saying he was presenting the award on behalf of “all the cowboys shot in all the John Ford Westerns.”
The activist also confirmed the attempted assault by Wayne during an interview with the Guardian last year, saying, “During my presentation, he (John Wayne) was coming towards me to forcibly take me off the stage, and he had to be restrained by six security men to prevent him from doing so.” Littlefeather continued, “I was escorted off of that stage by some armed guards. And luckily so, because John Wayne was waiting in the wings ready to go on to pull me off the stage, and he had to be held back by six security men because he was so outraged about what I had said.”
Littlefeather’s speech can be seen here:
REELated: Oscar co-hosts react to the Slap
The Screen Actors Guild issued their own statement on their official website which states,
“As the union representing presenters and other performers working on the Oscars, SAG-AFTRA is focused on ensuring our members always work in a safe environment. Violence or physical abuse in the workplace is never appropriate and the union condemns any such conduct. The incident involving Will Smith and Chris Rock at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable. We have been in contact with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and ABC about this incident, and will work to ensure this behavior is appropriately addressed. SAG-AFTRA does not comment on any pending member disciplinary process.”
Many are calling for Smith to lose his Academy Award over the incident, however there are many men who have committed far more grievous acts than Smith’s slap and they all still have their awards.
It would absolutely be ludicrous for Will Smith to lose his Oscar when sex offenders, serial abusers, and rapists are all permitted to retain their awards, even after getting expelled from the Academy like Polanski and Weinstein.
He should absolutely face consequences for his actions, however he shouldn’t be treated any harsher than previously problematic recipients.