If there was anyone more worried than Will Smith during the early hours of Monday, no matter how happy and carefree he appeared at the ‘Vanity Fair’ magazine party where he spent the rest of the night – he did not appear in the press room after receive the Oscar -, that was without a doubt Meredith Sullivan, the publicist who has been managing the career of the now Oscar-winning actor for years. Sullivan went down to the stalls of the Dolby Theater during the publicity when the loud cake for which Sunday’s gala will be remembered had already changed the cordial and friendly image of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He came, as did Denzel Washington, Tyler Perry and Will Packer, producer of the ceremony, to reassure him – ‘Variety’ assures that he also reproached his attitude – but it is possible that the strategy to follow to try to get the actor out of the mess.
The response, after the erratic and controversial speech he gave when collecting the award, in which he assured that he had been “called by God to love and protect people”, has been a public apology to Chris Rock that Smith launched on his networks. social events late in the afternoon in Los Angeles, past midnight in Spain. «I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was wrong and out of line. I am ashamed and my actions do not represent the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness,” Smith wrote in an entry on his Instagram account.
A position diametrically opposed to the one he exhibited during his acceptance speech the night before. With tears in his eyes and clinging to the statuette, the actor only apologized to the Academy and the other nominees – “I hope they invite me again,” he even said – he had no qualms about comparing himself to Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena Williams, for whose role he received the Oscar for best leading actor, and dropped gems like that “love makes you do crazy things” or that Denzel Washington had already warned him that “when he was at the top the devil would appear.” ».
Now, in his public message, he states that “violence in all its forms is poisonous and destructive.” “My behavior last night during the Oscars,” he continues, “was unacceptable and inexcusable. “Jokes at my expense are part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was hard to take and I reacted emotionally.”
The truth is that the joke by Chris Rock, one of the most important black comedians in the United States, was anything but funny, although Will Smith himself laughed at first. The protagonist of the latest feature film in the ‘Saw’ franchise came out on stage at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles to warm up the night a little and boy did he do it. He first addressed the couple formed by Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz, both nominated for best actor and actress, respectively. «Do you know who has the hardest job tonight? Javier Bardem and his wife are both nominated today. “If she loses, he can’t win, Bardem is crying out for Will Smith to win, for God’s sake,” he said. Later he turned to Jada Pinket Smith, the wife of the protagonist of ‘Men in Black’. She told him that she was looking forward to seeing her in the sequel to ‘Lieutenant O’Neil’, the film filmed in 1997 in which Demi Moore played a soldier, in clear allusion to her shaved head. While Will Smith laughed, the realization showed the indignant face of his wife. It was then that the actor stood up and slapped Rock, who was shocked. After returning to her seat, Smith snapped, “Take my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!”
The joke is a little more evil than it seems, since Will Smith’s wife has explained on numerous occasions that she has a shaved head because she suffers from alopecia. It was also not the first time Rock made jokes at Pinke Smith’s expense at an Oscar gala. In 2016, the actress was one of the champions of the boycott of the Oscars due to the lack of diversity among the nominees. «Isn’t she a television actress? Jada boycotting the Oscar is like me boycotting Rihanna’s underwear. “She wasn’t invited,” she said then.
Finally, in the statement Smith once again apologizes to the Academy, the show’s producers, all attendees and viewers of the show. “I would like to apologize to the Williams family and the ‘Williams Method’ family. I am deeply sorry that my behavior has tainted what has been a wonderful journey for all of us. I am a work in progress », he says goodbye.
The Academy’s turn
Hours before Smith’s message flooded social networks, the Hollywood Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reported in a statement about the opening of a “formal investigation” against the interpreter in which it will study future actions. “The Academy condemns Mr. Smith’s actions at last night’s show,” advances the organization’s writing published by the ‘Los Angeles Times’. “We have officially begun a formal review of the incident and will explore further actions and consequences in accordance with our statutes, standards of conduct, and California law,” he clarifies.
Curiously, it was the Academy itself that, after the slap, gave Smith a microphone in which he spoke freely and for much longer than allowed, it is not known if in an attempt to get Smith to apologize to Rock. Along with the statement, the institution sent the rules of conduct for the members of the organization, understanding, among which are unacceptable, harassment, intimidation, abusive and threatening behavior and bullying.
“There will be consequences, I’m sure, but I don’t think taking away the Oscar is one of them,” explained Whoopi Goldberg, winner of the Oscar in 1991 for ‘Ghost’, on the program ‘The View’, on ABC, the network that broadcasts the Oscar gala. Her words carry weight, since the actress and presenter is one of the 64 governors – she is the name given to those who are part of the leadership – who head an organization with almost 10,000 members.
At least the television audience for the gala recovered a little. 15.4 million viewers watched the ceremony, five more than last year, which is its second worst figure in history, despite the efforts made by the Academy to get closer to the public – there were even questions from the respectable to the stars who were asked. They left everyone wanting on the red carpet. Even so, the difference compared to the 2020 gala was more than eight million less. But the trend on the screen has been negative for years. From 43.7 million in 2014, the highest figure so far this century, the following ceremonies have been losing viewers year after year, with the exception of 2019, which had a slight rebound.