Oscars producer did not want Will Smith physically removed after blow

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Will Packer, the lead producer of the Oscar broadcast who was thrown into turmoil after actor Will Smith took the stage and punched comedian Chris Rock, said Friday that after Mr. Smith was asked to leave the ceremony, he would join the lead. of the Academy insisted on “physically” removing him from the theater during the live broadcast.

Mr Packer said he had been informed by his co-producer, Shayla Cowan, that there were discussions about plans to “physically remove” Mr Smith from the venue. So he said he immediately approached academy officials and told them he believed Mr. Rock “didn’t want to make a bad situation worse”.

“I argued for what Rock wanted at the time, which is not to physically remove Will Smith at that time,” said Mr. Packer. “Because as it has been explained to me now, that was the only option at the time. It was explained to me that there was a conversation I was not part of asking him to voluntarily leave.”

mr. Packer gave his first interview since Sunday’s broadcast to “Good Morning America” ​​on ABC, the network that also broadcasts the Oscars. In the interview, Mr. Packer that Mr. Rock’s joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s unscripted hair was “free-styling.”

“He didn’t tell any of the planned jokes,” he said of Mr. Rock.

Mr. Packer said that, like many viewers at home, he had initially thought that the clap could be part of an unplanned comedy play, and that he wasn’t quite sure until he spoke to Mr. Rock backstage that Mr. Smith was the clap. actually hit. comedian.

“I just got hit by Muhammad Ali,” Mr. Packer recalls, being told by Mr. Rock.

Mr. Packer said that Mr. Smith contacted him the morning after the Oscars and apologized to him. And he praised Mr. Rock for keeping his cool. “Chris kept his head up while everyone else lost theirs,” he said.

“I’ve never felt so devastated,” said Mr. Packer about the incident.

When asked if, after hearing Mr. Smith’s acceptance speech, he wished the actor had left the ceremony, Mr. Packer replied that he did, noting that Mr. Smith had not used his comments to express his sincere remorse. and apologize to Mr Rock.

“If he didn’t give that speech that really made it better, then yes, yes,” said Mr. Packer when asked if he wished Mr. Smith had left the ceremony. “Because now you don’t have the optics of someone who committed this act, didn’t nail it at the time in terms of a conciliatory acknowledgment, who then stayed in the room.”

Mr. Smith did not apologize to Mr. Rock until Monday evening, after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which administers the awards, condemned his actions and opened an investigation into the incident.

The comments from Mr. Packer came after days of questions about why Mr. Smith did not appear to suffer any repercussions for hitting a presenter on live television.

The academy said in a statement earlier this week that Mr Smith had been asked to leave the awards ceremony after the blow but had stayed. Subsequently, several publications questioned that report, citing anonymous sources, and stated that Mr Packer had proposed to stay. Representatives for Mr. Smith and Mr. Rock have not publicly commented on the matter.

Shortly after the ceremony ended on Sunday, the Los Angeles Police Department released a statement saying that the person who had been beaten had “refused to file a police report.”

In the interview, Mr. Packer described his memory of the involvement of law enforcement officers.

“They said, this is the battery, we’re going to get it,” Mr Packer said in the interview. “We’re ready to get him now. You can file a report. We can arrest him.”

“Chris was very dismissive of those options,” continued Mr. packer. “He said, ‘No, I’m fine.’ He was like, ‘No, no, no.’”

Both on Sunday night and in subsequent interviews this week, the Los Angeles Police Department has maintained that Mr. Smith’s blow qualifies as a felony under California law — and that as a misdemeanor, officers cannot take action unless the victim is involved in the case. sue, which Mr. Rock didn’t.

In an interview on Thursday, Deputy Chief Blake Chow, of the West Bureau of the Los Angeles Police Department, described the department’s role in less dramatic terms. At the Oscars, police officers are primarily responsible for patrolling outside the Dolby Theater, and the Academy hires a security company to troubleshoot inside the building, he said.

On Sunday, a police captain was stationed backstage as a liaison, the deputy chief said. The police captain inside did not perceive the blow himself; but he quickly became aware of it, the deputy chief added. The police captain contacted a representative of Mr. Rock shortly after the comedian finished handing out an award and returned backstage with his team, Deputy Chef Chow said.

The representative expressed “Chris Rock’s wishes” that he did not wish to press charges or file a report with the police, the deputy chief said. “He didn’t want to do anything.”

The police station was not asked to escort Mr. Smith out of the premises, and even if the police had been asked to do so, such a request would not have fallen within the department’s remit, the deputy chief said.

Detectives contacted representatives for Mr. Rock to make sure he still wouldn’t take any action. He confirmed not, the deputy chief said.

mr. Rock made his first public comments about the incident on Wednesday during a comedy show in Boston. “I’m still processing what happened,” Mr. Rock said, promising to discuss the episode in more detail later. “It’s going to be serious, it’s going to be funny, but I’d love to — I’m going to tell some jokes.”

The academy said Wednesday it had launched disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith “for violations of the academy’s standards of conduct, including inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behavior, and endangering the integrity of the academy.” It said Mr Smith would be given the opportunity to comment and that at its next board meeting, on April 18, it may take “any disciplinary action, including suspension, expulsion or other sanctions.”

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