Twelve days after Will Smith slapped and screamed profanities at Chris Rock during the 94th Academy Awards ceremony, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has ruled that Smith — who was presented with the best actor Oscar later that same evening — has been banned from returning to the Oscars or attending any other Academy events for the next 10 years.
Smith will retain the Oscar that he won and remains eligible for future Oscar nominations and wins.
The Academy’s 54-person board of governors held a special meeting on Friday morning to determine what action to take against Smith. Until one week ago, when Smith announced that he was resigning as a member of the organization, he was expected to face suspension or expulsion, having violated the standards of conduct that the Academy implemented after the outbreak of the #MeToo movement.
Many members of the industry have expressed outrage over Smith’s behavior, which he himself called “shocking, painful and inexcusable.” Some even called for him to lose the Oscar statuette that he was awarded and/or his eligibility for future Oscars. But the Academy appears to have doubled-down on its long-held position that there is a line between on-screen work and off-screen conduct. (Harvey Weinstein and Roman Polanski have been expelled from the organization, but each still has the Oscar statuette awarded to them prior to that.)
Smith, one of Hollywood’s most popular leading men for decades, exploded after Rock made a joke referencing the baldness of Smith’s wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who has from alopecia. (Rock reportedly went off-script and improvised the joke, not knowing of Pinkett Smith’s condition.) Pinkett Smith looked nonplussed, apparently prompting Smith, who initially laughed at the joke, as attendees looked on in disbelief.
The Academy’s CEO Dawn Hudson and president David Rubin and Oscars ceremony producer Will Packer have since been under fire for failing to remove Smith from the Dolby Theatre. They have issued contradicting statements about whether or not the actor was asked to leave. Smith remained at the ceremony until it was over, then skipped the Academy’s Governors Ball and made his way to the Vanity Fair Oscar party, where he danced to some of his own songs. He did not apologize to Rock until Monday.
In a letter to members sent after Friday morning’s meeting, Hudson and Rubin acknowledged that they “did not adequately address the situation in the room” and apologized that they “fell short — unprepared for the unprecedented.” They also expressed “deep gratitude to Mr. Rock for maintaining his composure under extraordinary circumstances” and thanked the evening’s “hosts, nominees, presenters and winners for their poise and grace during our telecast.”
Shortly afterwards, Smith, through a spokesperson, issued a brief statement of his own: “I accept and respect the Academy’s decision.”
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Here is the “Open Letter to Our Academy Family” sent by Rubin and Hudson on Friday morning:
The 94th Oscars were meant to be a celebration of the many individuals in our community who did incredible work this past year; however, those moments were overshadowed by the unacceptable and harmful behavior we saw Mr. Smith exhibit on stage.
During our telecast, we did not adequately address the situation in the room. For this, we are sorry. This was an opportunity for us to set an example for our guests, viewers and our Academy family around the world, and we fell short — unprepared for the unprecedented.
Today, the Board of Governors convened a meeting to discuss how best to respond to Will Smith’s actions at the Oscars, in addition to accepting his resignation. The Board has decided, for a period of 10 years from April 8, 2022, Mr. Smith shall not be permitted to attend any Academy events or programs, in person or virtually, including but not limited to the Academy Awards.
We want to express our deep gratitude to Mr. Rock for maintaining his composure under extraordinary circumstances. We also want to thank our hosts, nominees, presenters and winners for their poise and grace during our telecast.
This action we are taking today in response to Will Smith’s behavior is a step toward a larger goal of protecting the safety of our performers and guests, and restoring trust in the Academy. We also hope this can begin a time of healing and restoration for all involved and impacted.