As Sarah wrote earlier today, the Academy claimed last night that Will Smith was asked to leave the Oscars after slapping Chris Rock and he refused. Sarah was skeptical about this in her post, pointing out that his publicist was seen approaching Will several times after the incident but that doesn’t necessarily mean that she was relaying the “you have to bounce, NOW” message from the Academy. If they’re communicating through the publicist, whatever that message was doesn’t seem like it was all that urgent, especially if it was an order. Being asked to leave is tantamount to an order. The publicist doesn’t deliver orders in Hollywood. Publicists deliver SUGGESTIONS.
Now TMZ is reporting that Will being asked to leave is not true, citing sources who say that several producers actually advised the opposite, including EP Will Packer who supposedly told Will that they wanted him to STAY.
So who’s telling the truth here? Is the Academy trying to put out a version of events that better serves them? Is Will Smith trying to put out his own version of events?
There is a reason why people are skeptical, though, about the Academy’s assertion that they told Will to leave because…well… we kinda saw footage of what was happening during commercial breaks – Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry surrounding the Smiths, comforting Will, and also Bradley Cooper at one point looking like he was consoling Will and, as Maria put it to me over text last night, walking him through some breathing exercises.
If the Academy was trying to get Will to go, then, they not only would have had to go through Will but through Denzel, and Tyler, and Bradley and all the others who were essentially flanking him in those moments. And it was pretty clear to everyone there and the audience at home that Denzel was very much a soft place to land for Will. In the weeks leading up to the Oscars, Denzel openly declared his vote for Will for Best Actor. Even on the red carpet during arrivals before the broadcast began, Denzel spent a lot of his time during interviews talking about how it was Will’s time. Mr Washington didn’t go to the Oscars to win, he went to the Oscars to watch his friend win. What I’m trying to say is that I’m not convinced any representative of the Academy would have been all that eager to stride up to Will and Denzel and be like, get the f-ck out of here.
So where does that leave us? Well, with a lot of finger-pointing and a major Hollywood fracture that could have profound consequences for the industry that go beyond Will and Jada Pinkett Smith and Chris Rock. People are taking sides. The Academy itself seems to be in chaos over how to proceed. No one can even agree about the sequence of events and what decisions were and weren’t made and when and if they were even made. The Academy may not have acted quickly in the moment on Oscar night…but right now, in the aftermath, quick and swift might not be the answer either. Quickness very rarely serves an investigation. And everybody yelling at each other doesn’t either. A breather might f-cking help here, non? Like can everybody just dial back the bloodlust and the panic and take a minute to sort out alllll the information and just talk it out first? Or is that going to be controversial too?
Here’s Bradley Cooper in New York, seen for the first time since Oscar night.