We’ve debunked some of the conspiracies surrounding “The Slap,” but it seems like one has been brewing right under our noses…
Although the incident happened days ago now, the story is still developing. We’ve seen the video from new angles, we’ve heard new perspectives from those who were there, and a new celeb weighs in on the controversy just about every hour on the hour. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has denounced Will Smith’s actions and promised consequences for his assault of Chris Rock — but certain elements of their statement are now being called into question.
Specifically, the Academy claimed that Will was asked to leave the ceremony following The Slap, and he “refused.” But several sources have come forward with stories that contradict that version of events. According to Variety, while some Academy members wanted him removed, “no formal or explicit ask was ever made.”
TMZ reported that there were “heated conversations” backstage between Academy officials and the actor’s representatives. The outlet affirmed that members’ reactions were mixed, with some wanting him gone and some believing he should stay. According to the outlet:
“There were various discussions during several commercial breaks, but they never reached a consensus.”
Unsurprisingly, Will was aware of this behind-the-scenes debate, per TMZ. But sources for both outlets claimed he was approached by the show’s producer Will Packer between The Slap and the Best Actor presentation (“just after 8 p.m., around 35 minutes after the slap” and about five minutes before he won the award, according to TMZ).
Two witnesses for Variety saw Packer confer with Will at that time, with one of the witnesses saying the producer “officially” requested the 53-year-old remain on behalf of the production team. Sources for TMZ claimed that Packer specifically said:
“We do not want you to leave.”
Packer did not respond to Variety’s requests for comment, but a source close to the Girls Trip producer “denied that the producer urged Smith to remain.” Another Variety insider “familiar with the Academy” claimed that Will was “asked to leave through an on-site representative” on behalf of Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson. Another source alleged it was Hudson specifically who asked for Will to leave. Variety observed that “No security personnel approached the actor” during the show’s commercial breaks.
Given all these stories flying around, the one thing that really rings true is that no one could quite figure out how to handle such an unprecedented crisis. Maybe some Academy members did want him gone, but it doesn’t sound clear that Will was actually approached by anyone with real authority to kick him out. (After all, if they truly wanted him gone, they could have had security escort him out.)
We’re also inclined to believe that Packer, from a production standpoint, did want the imminent Best Actor winner to stay. After all, ABC was all about increasing the show’s ratings, and we imagine a lot of people were staying tuned in during the last hour of the show to see him accept the award and hear what he might say. As Variety pointed out, his acceptance speech even went on “much longer than the time afforded to other winners.”
All in all, it seems like the Academy has made the aftermath of The Slap even messier than it was already. If they weren’t absolutely certain that they had officially asked Will to leave, they shouldn’t have said so. But it seems like the rush to do damage control may have put them in a very awkward position. We’re sure more details (if not Will’s own full account of the night) will be coming to the surface soon enough…
[Image via ABC/CBS/YouTube]