Will Smith Oscars Mystery: Was He Told to Leave or Not?

While accounts vary as to whether Will Smith was asked leave the Oscars after slapping Chris Rock none agree with the Academy’s version

Wednesday’s news, straight from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences itself, was that Will Smith was asked to leave the Dolby Theater after jumping the stage during Sunday’s Oscars ceremony to slap Chris Rock but refused to leave. Today, it seems the narrative has taken another turn.

According to TMZ, Smith was never asked to leave the awards at all. In fact, the gossip site’s sources say that while Academy officials did debate with Smith’s reps backstage about having him leave, show producer Will Packer eventually told Smith, “We do not want you to leave.”

That is said to have happened about 35 minutes after the slap; Smith won his Oscar and made a speech about love roughly five minutes later.

Deadline, meanwhile, reports that show bosses merely suggested that Smith take his leave: “Deadline hears that a pair of Oscar heavyweights—Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson—had a discussion with Smith’s rep, bouncing around the idea of the then-pending King Richard Best Actor winner departing the Dolby Theatre.”

When Smith’s rep presented the actor with the suggestion, however, he allegedly told her, according to a Deadline source, “I want to make this right, I want to stay and apologize.”

The actual apology was half-hearted. Smith, in his acceptance speech, seemed to defend his actions, comparing himself to his character in King Richard, Richard Williams, calling him a “fierce defender of his family,” adding, “Love will make you do crazy things.” He apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees that night, but had no words for Rock.

In another version of events, Deadline mentions a “firm ask” from the Academy to have Smith leave, pronto. The Academy didn’t comment to Deadline on the developing situation.

In Variety‘s account of moments following the attack, Academy members did want Smith booted, but no formal or explicit request was ever made. But another Variety source claims Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson asked Smith to leave the show through an on-site representative. That ask was then nullified by producer Packer, who Variety says conferred with Smith in the orchestra section before telling the actor that the production “officially” wanted him to stay.

But, the paper adds, “Another source close to Packer denied that the producer urged Smith to remain.”

As the Academy said Wednesday in its now oft-refuted statement, “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.”

In further Slap News, a video surfaced Thursday showing Jada Pinkett Smith’s reaction, or part of it, to the violence.

The video, via Page Six, was shot on a phone inside the theater by someone sitting behind the Smiths, and purports to show Jada laughing at the slap. Upon viewing, however, some people think she is simply laughing—as we all did—at Chris Rock’s dazed response of, “Will Smith just slapped the shit of out me!”

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