It’s been 11 months since Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars, and the organization behind Hollywood’s most prestigious awards show is preparing for the worst ahead of next month’s broadcast.
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences CEO Bill Kramer told Time in a new interview that they have implemented a “crisis team” to more effectively handle and respond to incidents, such as Smith storming the Oscars stage to rattle the host’s teeth for cracking a joke about his wife’s bald head.
“We have a whole crisis team, something we’ve never had before, and many plans in place. We’ve run many scenarios,” Kramer said when asked if the Academy was putting any additional measures in place this year in case of further unforeseen surprises. “So, it is our hope that we will be prepared for anything that we may not anticipate right now but that we’re planning for just in case it does happen.”
Jimmy Kimmel returns to host the March 12 ceremony, and Kramer hopes the late-night TV star’s experience is, in itself, a safeguard.
“That’s why you want someone like Jimmy on stage who is used to dealing with live TV: Things don’t always go as planned,” he explained. “So you have a host in place who can really pivot and manage those moments.”
Kramer added, “Because of last year, we’ve opened our minds to the many things that can happen at the Oscars. But these crisis plans—the crisis communication teams and structures we have in place—allow us to say this is the group that we have to gather very quickly. This is how we all come together. This is the spokesperson. This will be the statement. And obviously depending on the specifics of the crisis, and let’s hope something doesn’t happen and we never have to use these, but we already have frameworks in place that we can modify.”
Those following the controversy surrounding Andrea Riseborough’s surprise Best Actress nomination for the little indie film To Leslie have already seen the Academy’s new crisis management team in action.
“Within a couple of days of the To Leslie campaigning conversation, we gathered the board and issued a clear statement,” Kramer said. “I hope it was clear. It was clear to us. And the conversation will continue, but The Academy needs to bring stakeholders together who are directly impacted around these topics more quickly and with more clarity and transparency.”
As for Academy’s initial response to the Smith slap, Kramer admits that “we could have moved more quickly,” and adds, “I’m not just talking about the night of the show.”
He continued, “This is really our response after the show, and how we spoke about it, and how we talked to Will and Chris, and our hosts and our members. It was a moment to really bring people together.”
The Academy also faced backlash after this year’s nominations were announced, none of which included The Woman King — a critically and commercially successful period adventure drama the yielded BAFTA Film Award nominations for star Viola Davis and director Gina Prince-Bythewood.
Kramer told Time he met with the filmmaker, who he called “brilliant,” and listened to her concerns, which the Academy plans to address with members in a “very proactive, healthy way.”
The plan: “Later this spring and summer, we want to deconstruct what happened here with a diverse group of panelists for conversations that I hope illuminate this to a deeper degree for our Academy members.”
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