The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences said Will Smith was asked to leave for Sunday’s Oscars after hitting Chris Rock, but declined.
The Academy’s board of directors, meeting on Wednesday, said it had also launched disciplinary proceedings against Smith for violations of the group’s standards of conduct.
Many have wondered why Smith was allowed to sit front row at the Academy Awards after the incident. On Wednesday, the Academy suggested it was trying to remove the actor from the public.
“Things unfolded in a way that we could not have foreseen,” the Academy said. “While we would like to clarify that Mr. Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and declined, we also recognize that we could have handled the situation differently.”
The Academy said Smith had the opportunity to defend himself in a written response before the board meets again on April 18. The Academy said disciplinary action against Smith could include suspension, expulsion or other sanctions.
The film academy previously condemned Smith’s attack on Rock onstage. But it used stronger language on Wednesday.
Smith’s actions at the 94th Oscars were a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness personally and on television,” the academy said. “Mr Rock, we apologize for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience at that time. We also apologize to our nominees, guests and viewers for what happened during what should have been a celebratory event.”
Smith shocked viewers from Sunday’s awards ceremony when he walked onto the stage and punched Rock in the face. Rock had joked a little earlier about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, making fun of her short haircut. Pinkett Smith has been open about her alopecia-related hair loss.
Within an hour, Smith had won the Best Actor award and received a standing ovation. During his five-minute acceptance speech, Smith spoke about defending his family and apologized to the Academy, but did not name Rock.
The fallout in Hollywood continues, with many stars condemning the violence on stage. Wanda Sykes, who co-hosted the Oscars with Amy Schumer and Regina Hall, said she felt physically ill after the blow. In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres that will air Thursday, Sykes also said Smith should not have been allowed to stay to receive his award.
On Monday, Smith apologized to Rock, the Academy and viewers, saying, “I was off the line and I was wrong.”
“I deeply regret that my conduct has stained an otherwise wonderful journey for all of us. I’m a work in progress,” Smith said in an Instagram post. Jada Pinkett Smith, meanwhile, has called for “healing.”
Rock has not yet publicly commented on the incident, but is not pressing charges. The comedian was set to begin a series of shows in Boston on Wednesday night, his first since the Oscars.