“The higher-ups from the Academy, once they realized the slap was real, were first focused on making sure Chris was OK,” a source exclusively told Us Weekly, noting that initially, it wasn’t clear whether the incident was staged. “Several workers went to check on [Chris] after the slap and he told everyone he was fine.”
During the live awards show, Rock, 57, made a joke referring to Pinkett Smith, 50, as G.I. Jane due to her shaved head. The Red Table Talk host, who has alopecia, rolled her eyes before Smith, 53, walked up to the stage to hit the comedian for his comment.
“Will Smith just f—king smacked the s—t out of me,” the Saturday Night Live alum said after the stream was muted. The Suicide Squad actor returned to his seat before yelling at Rock, “Keep my wife’s name out your f—king mouth.”
According to another insider, Smith and Rock “did not see each other” after the altercation. “Everyone knew where Chris and Will were afterward and were not about to let them interact again for safety reasons,” the first source revealed.
After receiving the best actor award for his performance in King Richard, the Philadelphia native attempted to apologize for his involvement. “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do, you got to be able to take abuse,” he said during his emotional speech. “You got to be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business you got to be able to have people disrespecting you. And you got to smile, you got to pretend like that’s OK.”
Smith continued: “I want to apologize to the academy. I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees. … Thank you for this moment. And thank you on behalf of Richard and the entire Williams family. Thank you. I hope the academy invites me back.”
The source noted that people were debating whether the I Am Legend star “should be removed” immediately from the 94th Academy Awards after the incident. “There was plenty of back and forth about what to do about Will,” the insider explained to Us. “In the moment, the reason to allow Will to stay was because Chris had gone backstage and there wasn’t a risk of them bumping into each other again.”
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences later announced that they were starting a “formal review around the incident” on Monday, March 28. “Members should act in a manner consistent with the good reputation of the Academy,” the organization said in a statement, referring to their Standards of Conduct. The regulations list details “physical contact that is uninvited and, in the situation, inappropriate and unwelcome,” as an example of unacceptable conduct.
At the time, Us confirmed that Rock had no plans to press charges after the shocking incident. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement to Us. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”
With reporting by Travis Cronin