LAPD Was 'Prepared' to Arrest Will Smith, Chris Rock Said 'No' to Jail - Rolling Stone
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Chris Rock Source Disputes Oscars Producer’s Claim He Vetoed Will Smith’s Ejection

While it’s true Chris Rock told LAPD he didn’t want Will Smith arrested, a source close to Rock says no one consulted the comedian about allowing Smith to remain at the Oscars post-slap

Oscars Producer Says LAPD Was 'Prepared' to Put Will Smith in Jail, Chris Rock Saved HimOscars Producer Says LAPD Was 'Prepared' to Put Will Smith in Jail, Chris Rock Saved Him

Presenter Chris Rock, left, reacts after being hit on stage by Will Smith while presenting the award for best documentary feature at the Oscars on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

UPDATE (4/1/2022): Chris Rock was never asked if he wanted Will Smith escorted out of the Dolby Theatre on Sunday after the King Richard actor slapped him during an onstage ambush at the 2022 Oscars, a source close to Rock tells Rolling Stone.

The source spoke out after Oscars producer Will Packer told Good Morning America that he intervened, allegedly on Rock’s behalf, and halted an effort by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to eject Smith from the building before his Best Actor award was presented.

According to the source close to Rock, neither Packer nor anyone with the Academy ever asked Rock if he wanted Smith removed from the audience. It’s not clear how Rock would have answered that question in the moment because it was never posed, the source says. It was only LAPD who asked Rock about his personal wishes, the source says, leading Rock to say he didn’t want to press criminal charges.

In his GMA interview that aired in its entirety Friday, Packer revealed that his co-producer Shayla Cowan told him shortly after the slap that the Academy was pushing for Smith’s ouster. “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 was Chris’ energy. His tone was not retaliatory, his tone was not aggressive and angry, and so I was advocating what Rock wanted at that time, which was not to physically remove Will Smith at that time. Because as it has now been explained to me, that was the only option at that point. It has been explained to me that there was a conversation I was not a part of to ask him to voluntarily leave.”

According to the source close to Rock, the comedian had no idea that Jada Pinkett Smith, Smith’s wife, suffers from alopecia when he made the joke about her buzzcut that led to Smith’s shocking slap.

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Originally published 3/31/2021 and updated with additional quotes from Will Packer’s interview.

Oscars producer Will Packer is finally speaking out about the very intense scene that erupted backstage after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock across the face during Sunday night’s Oscars, including just how close Smith came to an actual arrest.

Breaking his silence in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America, Packer says Los Angeles Police Department officials were ready to take Smith into custody, but it was Rock who saved him from a trip to jail.

“They were saying, you know, ‘This is battery.’ [Battery] was the word they used in that moment,” Packer told ABC News’ T.J. Holmes in a clip published late Thursday, ahead of the full interview airing Friday at 7 a.m. ET. “They said, ‘We will go get him. We are prepared. We’re prepared to get him right now. You can press charges. We can arrest him.'”

LAPD previously revealed Rock declined to file charges against Smith, but it wasn’t clear until now that police spoke directly to Rock in person and let him know Smith’s fate was in his hands.

“They were laying out the options. And as they were talking, Chris was being very dismissive of those options. He was like, ‘No, no, I’m fine.’ He was like, ‘No, no, no.’ And even to the point where I said, ‘Rock, let them finish.’ The LAPD officers finish laying out what his options were. And they said, you know, ‘Would you like us to take any action?’ And he said, ‘No,'” the Oscars producer recalled.

An LAPD source tells Rolling Stone that the battery charge would have been a misdemeanor, so “It would take the victim stepping forward for us to get involved.”

Packer also told Holmes that he did not speak directly with Smith at all the night of the Oscars. It’s not clear if he communicated with the actor through an intermediary.

Packer said that his co-producer Shayla Cowan told him that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was ready to remove Smith from the building before the Best Actor award was presented. Packer said he wasn’t part of those initial discussions, but immediately intervened, telling them that’s not what Rock wanted.

“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 was Chris’ energy. His tone was not retaliatory, his tone was not aggressive and angry, and so I was advocating what Rock wanted at that time, which was not to physically remove Will Smith at that time. Because as it has now been explained to me, that was the only option at that point. It has been explained to me that there was a conversation I was not a part of to ask him to voluntarily leave.”

During the interview, Packer offered some additional details about how the slap played out behind the scenes. He noted that Rock had a full slate of jokes pre-written when he got up to present the award for Best Documentary, but instead of reading them off the prompter, the comedian immediately started ad-libbing. 

“He didn’t tell one of the planned jokes, but you can’t make it up,” Packer said. “He was just immediately freestyling. But I tell you, if there’s anybody that you don’t worry about going out in front of a live audience and riffing off the cuff, [it’s] Chris Rock. Nobody’s better.”

Packer even admits that as the incident unfolded, he — like many — thought the slap was a pre-planned bit Rock and Smith had conceived together. It was only after Smith started yelling at Rock from the stage after sitting back down, that Packer said, “My heart dropped.”

He continued, “I’ve got people, everybody’s still in my ear, you know, saying: ‘OK, what are we doing on camera two? Is he still up there? Are we doing the best documentary category?’ And Chris was keeping his head when everybody was losing theirs… But my heart at that point was just in my stomach, because of everything about it and what it represented and what it looked like and who was involved. All of that was just — I never felt so immediately devastated like I did in that moment.”

According to the Academy, Smith was asked to leave the Oscars ceremony after he slapped Rock but outright “refused” and defiantly accepted his Best Actor award for his role in King Richard in person. In a statement Wednesday, the Academy’s board of governors also said Smith could face suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions for violating the group’s standards of conduct.

“Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated. While we would like to clarify that Mr. Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognize we could have handled the situation differently,” the statement obtained by Variety said.

Sources told Rolling Stone on Thursday that Academy CEO Dawn Hudson was one of the Academy officials who relayed to Smith that she wanted him to leave the Dolby Theater for the remainder of the telecast. Smith stayed in his seat and then delivered a lengthy acceptance speech for his Best Actor award, apologizing to the Academy and the show’s audience but not to Rock directly.

On Monday, Smith apologized to Rock via social media, saying he “reacted emotionally” to the comedian’s joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s buzzcut, which relates to her struggle with alopecia that she’s shared publicly. “I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I’m embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I wanted to be,” Smith wrote. “There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.”

In This Article: 2022 Oscars, Chris Rock, Will Smith

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