Oscars producer Will Packer has shed light on the situation surrounding the behind-the-scenes moments after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on stage. Packer sat down with Good Morning America for an interview five days after the show, where he responded to questions following why Will Smith wasn’t removed after his onstage assault. Packer also shared his backstage conversations with Rock and the LAPD. The first time Oscars producer said that in the live moment, he thought the altercation was a bit, that was until Rock came backstage and confirmed he had really been hit by Smith. Despite this, Smith went on the win the Oscar for Best Actor and even received a standing ovation from the audience.
Packer, who spoke to T.J. Holmes, confirmed that when Rock took the stage, the joke he made about Jada Pickett Smith referencing a remake of G.I. Jane and her shaved head was unscripted: “He didn’t tell one of the planned jokes. He was immediately freestyling,” says Packer of Rock, he also shared that he wasn’t concerned even when Smith took the stage, continuing to think that they were doing a bit. Rock then finished presenting the award for best documentary and went backstage, confirming Smith had actually hit him.
“I just took a punch from Muhammad Ali,” Packer says Rock joked, despite being “very much in shock.” Rock was asked by the LAPD if he wanted to press charges, but he insisted he was fine and continued to be “very dismissive” of the options presented by the LAPD about his rights, continuing “laying out very clearly what Chris’ rights are. They were saying: This is battery. We will go get him. We’re prepared. We’re prepared to get him right now. You can press charges. We’ll arrest him.”
Poker also confirmed on GMA that he was not a part of the conversations surrounding removing Smith but his co-producer Shayla Cowan, was: “I immediately went to the Academy leadership that was on site and I said, ‘Chris Rock doesn’t want that.’ I said, ‘Rock has made it clear that he does not want to make a bad situation worse.’ That was Chris’ image. His tone was not retaliatory, his tone was not aggressive and angry. And so I was advocating for what Rock wanted at that time, which was not to physically remove Will Smith at that time. Because, as it has now been explained to me, that was the only option at that point. It has been explained to me that there was a conversation that I was not a part of to ask him to voluntarily leave.”
Smith has since reached out to Packer personally saying, “[Smith] said, ‘This should have been a gigantic moment for you. And he expressed his embarrassment, and that was the extent of it.” Smith is now facing disciplinary action, which may include suspension or expulsion permitted by the Academy’s bylaws and Standards of Conduct. The board meeting takes place on April 18th.