Will Smith was asked to leave the Oscars ceremony after slapping Chris Rock on live TV Sunday night but outright “refused” and defiantly accepted his Best Actor award in person, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences claimed in a statement Wednesday.
The Academy’s board of governors started disciplinary proceedings against the King Richard star earlier in the day and released a statement saying Smith could face suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions for violating the group’s standards of conduct, Variety reports.
The new statement, which concluded with a mea culpa, followed Smith’s outburst that fueled a firestorm of controversy and suggestions Academy brass were flat-footed in their response Sunday night.
“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 concluded.
The board said Smith’s violations included “inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behavior, and compromising the integrity of the Academy.”
It said Smith will have 15 days’ notice before a vote is held, and he’ll have “the opportunity to be heard beforehand by means of a written response.“
The disciplinary action could be handed down at the next board meeting on April 18, the statement said.
“Mr. Smith’s actions at the 94th Oscars were a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness in-person and on television,” the statement continued.
“Mr. Rock, we apologize to you for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience in that moment. We also apologize to our nominees, guests and viewers for what transpired during what should have been a celebratory event,” the statement said.
Reps for Smith did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.
The Ali actor stormed the Oscars stage and slapped Rock after the comedian made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
Rock said he loved Pinkett Smith and couldn’t wait to see her in G.I. Jane 2, referring to Demi Moore’s fictional character in the original G.I. Jane who had a buzzcut hairstyle like Pinkett Smith.
After the shocking slap, fellow Hollywood heavyweights Denzel Washington, Tyler Perry and Bradley Cooper were seen speaking to Smith.
Smith apologized to the Academy and the show’s audience during his acceptance speech Sunday but notably left Rock out. He issued a public apology to Rock the next day, saying he was “out of line” and “wrong.”
Several Academy members have been stripped of their membership in the past. They include convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski, Bill Cosby and more obscure actor Carmine Caridi, who was given the boot because he shared movie screeners against Academy policy.