Almost a week after slapping comedian Chris Rock in the face because of a joke at his wife’s expense, Will Smith took matters into his own hands once again and sent the Academy a letter resigning from the prestigious organization.
In the letter, a “heartbroken” Will said “I betrayed the trust of the Academy. I betrayed the trust of other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work.”
After covering the Oscars for more than 30 years, I thought I had seen it all: Native American protests for Marlo Brando, mixed-up ballots, a streaker and of course our own Cher, queen of the red carpet, in her belly-baring feathered headdress creations.
But this year’s ceremony is something the likes of which I’ve never seen.
Best Actor winner Smith, by his own admission, got out of control and let his emotions get the best of him.
Chris Rock, who is known for his sometimes edgy humor, entered the star-studded super A-list Dolby Theater to do his bit and make his presentation.
In an unscripted moment before his presentation, he cracked a “G.I. Jane” joke at Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith. He apparently didn’t know her hair loss was due to a medical condition, not a style statement.
Smith rose from his chair, rushed to the podium and gave Chris a good one.
“Oh wow,” said Rock, “Will Smith just smacked the s—out of me.”
Back at the table Smith continued his diatribe and was asked to leave, but refused.
Backstage there was mass confusion.
“We thought it was an unscripted joke,” said Producer Will Packard.
Co-host Wanda Sykes said she was “sickened. I felt physically ill.” Packard, who took great pride in putting together his all-black production crew, said the LAPD asked if Rock wanted to press charges. He did not.
“He made it very clear that he did not want to make a bad situation worse,” Packard said.
Chris was a pro and kept the show moving.
A few minutes later, Smith returned to the stage to collect his first his Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Richard Williams, father of tennis phenoms Venus and Serena in the film “King Richard.”
Smith received a standing ovation. That display was more than enough for longtime actor Jim Carry who said, “This just shows how spineless Hollywood has become. We are no longer the cool club.”
What is sad, is after the “Oscar-so-White” controversy, the Academy went out of its way to be more inclusive. It added hundreds of new members — black, brown, Asian, disabled. The last two best pics had subtitles. It looked to films which were more representative of the world as a whole.
Smith’s antics took the spotlight away from those who worked their whole lives for recognition. “CODA,” Best Supporting Actress Ariana DeBose, Best Supporting Actor Troy Kotsur, Best documentary, the all black production team and its producer, etc., were just footnotes.
As for Smith — dancing at the Vanity Fair after party — award in hand, it’s far from over.
He may face further sanctions when the Academy’s Standards of Conduct board meets April 18. He also has several film roles lined up. The status of those projects is unclear.