Will Smith ‘was asked to leave’ Oscars but declined, Academy says

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Wednesday that Will Smith was asked to attend the Academy Awards on Sunday after punching Chris Rock, but declined to do so.

The academy’s board of directors met on Wednesday to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Smith for breaching the group’s standards of conduct. The academy said disciplinary action for Smith could include suspension, expulsion or other penalties.

Many have focused on why Smith was allowed to remain seated in the front row at the Oscars after the incident. On Wednesday, the academy suggested it was trying to remove the actor from public view.

“Things turned out in a way that we could not have foreseen,” the academy said. “Although we would like to clarify that Mr. Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognize that we could have handled the situation differently.”

An academy representative declined to elaborate on how it attempted to remove Smith. After Smith hit out at Rock in response to a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, several stars, including Denzel Washington, Bradley Cooper and Tyler Perry, spoke with Smith, 53.

The academy said Smith was given the opportunity to defend himself in a written response before the board meets again on April 18. The film academy had previously condemned Smith’s onstage assault on Rock, but it used stronger language on Wednesday.

A handout photo shows comedian Chris Rock backstage at the 94th Annual Academy Awards, held at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, Calif., on Sunday. (Al Seib/AMPAS/Getty Images)

“Mr. Smith’s actions at the 94th Academy Awards were a deeply shocking and traumatic event that he witnessed in person and on television,” the academy said.

“Mr. Rock, we apologize for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience at this time. We also apologize to our nominees, guests and viewers for what happened. at what should have been a celebratory event.”

On Monday, Smith issued an apology to Rock, the academy and viewers, saying “I was out of line and wrong.”

A representative for Smith did not immediately respond to messages Wednesday regarding the academy’s latest moves.