Oscars 2022 producer Will Packer is opening up about what happened behind the scenes on Hollywood’s biggest night, after actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on stage.
In an exclusive interview with ABC News’ TJ Holmes, airing Friday on Good Morning America, Packer said the Los Angeles Police Department was ready to arrest Smith at the 94th Academy Awards on Sunday night after he got up from his seat, walked on stage and slapped Rock for telling a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
“That is an absolute fact,” Packer said. “The LAPD made it clear: ‘We will do whatever you want us to do, and one of the options is that we will go and arrest him right now."”
Packer said Rock was “dismissive” of the options police presented, insisting he was “fine.” While Packer didn’t speak to Smith, his co-producer, Shayla Cowan, informed him that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences was about to remove Smith from the ceremony. The Academy said in a statement Wednesday that they had asked Smith to leave, but he refused.
Packer said, “I immediately went to the Academy leadership that was on site and I said: ‘Chris Rock doesn’t want that,’ I said: ‘Rock has made it clear that he does not want to make a bad situation worse."”
Packer said that because Rock was not retaliatory, aggressive or angry following the incident, he was willing to advocate for whatever the comedian wanted in that moment, which was to not kick out Smith.
The following day, Smith formally apologized to Rock and the Academy for his actions in an Instagram post. Smith reportedly also apologized to the other Oscars producers in a six-minute Zoom call on Tuesday.
The Academy’s Board of Governors announced Wednesday that they are beginning disciplinary procedures against the actor.
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