Could Will Smith be stripped of his Oscar? The academy meets to decide


Nearly two weeks after punching Chris Rock on stage, Will Smith is set to find out if Oscar organizers will punish him with a slap on the wrist — or something more serious.

Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will meet on Friday to discuss what disciplinary action, if any, should be taken against Smith for slapping Rock at the March 27 Academy Awards.

Moments earlier, host Rock made a joke about the shaved head of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who suffers from alopecia, which has caused her to lose her hair.

Minutes later, Smith was back on stage, winning Best Actor for King Richard. Smith later apologized and resigned as a member of the academy – a group of nearly 10,000 film industry insiders who vote for Oscar winners.

Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith arrive at the Oscars. Pinkett Smith said she shaved her head because she suffered from alopecia, which caused her hair to fall out. (Jordan Strauss/Invision/Associated Press)

Weighing her options

Hollywood watchers say the academy is walking a tightrope: How can it take a stand now after failing to act against other members’ misconduct for decades?

The academy’s code of conduct lists possible penalties ranging from a written warning to permanent ineligibility for future awards.

Smith won the Best Actor Oscar for King Richard shortly after slapping Rock. Here he holds the statuette at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif., later that night. (Evan Agostini/Invision/Associated Press)

Clayton Davis, Awards Editor at Trade Publication Varietysays Smith’s resignation from the academy may have limited his options, or appetite, for penalties.

One option, he says, is to bar Smith from future ceremonies.

“It could be something as little as [just barring him] next year, because traditionally the Best Actor winner presents Best Actress the following year, so he would be barred from doing that, until multiple ceremonies in the future,” Davis said.

Few evictions

In its 94-year history, the academy has only expelled five members, most of them very recently.

Actor Carmine Caridi (The Godfather) was launched in 2004 after illegal copies of Oscar-nominated films were discovered online and traced back to its reviewers — copies provided in advance to members of the academy in order to vote for the winners.

Harvey Weinstein, pictured outside a Manhattan courthouse on February 20, 2020, was expelled from the academy in 2017 after dozens of women accused him of sexual assault and harassment. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Producer Harvey Weinstein was kicked out in 2017 after dozens of women accused him of sexual assault or harassment.

The following year, actor Bill Cosby was deported after his conviction for sexual assault, which has since been overturned.

Director Roman Polanski was also deported in 2018 – more than 40 years after pleading guilty to raping a 13-year-old girl and fleeing to France, where he remains a fugitive. However, in 2003, the academy awarded Polanski its statuette for best director for The pianist.

In 2021, director of photography Adam Kimmel was also expelled after Variety revealed that he pleaded guilty to raping an underage girl years before joining the academy.

Given that most of those evictions were for sexual offences, there are doubts that Smith, who does not face criminal charges, would face the same penalty.

“To be in this class of Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby is a huge, huge leap forward [from Smith’s actions]“said Emmanuel Noisette, film critic for TheMovieBlog.com.

Actor Bill Cosby, left, and director Roman Polanski were both expelled from the academy in May 2018. (The Associated Press)

Some have called for Smith to be stripped of his Oscar. It’s not as likely, Davis says, because Weinstein and Polanksi still have theirs.

Only one Oscar has been cancelled. In 1969, Young Americans had to return its award for Best Documentary, as it had been released two years earlier and was therefore ineligible.

Both Davis and Noisette say that even though Smith is no longer a member of the academy, he will likely still be eligible to win future Oscars.

“He could still go out and make a great movie and get nominated and win. He just wouldn’t be on the membership electorate,” Noisette said.

Should others be punished?

As the academy deliberates, new calls are made for it to belatedly punish other members as well.

Some want actor and filmmaker Mel Gibson stripped of his 1995 Best Director Oscar, which he won for Brave heart, about his 2006 anti-Semitic tirade against a Los Angeles police officer. Gibson then received a Best Director nod for hacksaw crest in 2017.

Adrien Brody also suffered no consequences when he grabbed and kissed Halle Berry on stage after she announced her Best Actor win for Polanski. The pianist.

Actor and director Mel Gibson, pictured on the Oscars red carpet February 2, 2017. There are fresh calls for Gibson to be stripped of his 1995 Best Director Oscar for his past anti-Semitic remarks. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Hazel and Davis say race could prove a factor in the academy’s decision: How can it make an example of Smith, a black man, when white men have dodged punishment?

A mitigating factor for Smith, Hazel suggests, is the provocation of Rock’s joke, which apparently wasn’t part of his script.

At the same time, he adds, the academy’s decision will also be “about branding” as it works to revamp its public image of being lax on misconduct to defend her values.

“It’s not just about Will Smith. It’s also about how [the academy is] perceived… Let’s be honest, they care about their image. This is Hollywood, after all.”

The academy did not respond to a request for comment.

Adrien Brody kisses actress Halle Berry as he accepts his Best Actor Oscar for The Pianist March 23, 2003. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)