As a review & investigation of the "The Great Oscars Slap of 2022" between Best Actor award-winner Will Smith (King Richard) and presenter Chris Rock during the live ABC Academy Awards broadcast over Rock's joke directed at Smith's wife Jada Pinkett Smith ("Jada, I love you, 'G.I. Jane 2,' can't wait to see it") gets underway, show producer Will Packer is shedding some light on what went down during the assault as well the decision-making behind the scenes. The move comes as there continues to be confusion over whether or not Smith was asked to leave after the incident went down. Speaking with T.J. Holmes during this morning's edition of ABC's Good Morning America, Packer addressed that and a number of other issues- here are some of the highlights:
"I thought it was a bit, like everybody else": Like many watching in the audience and at home, Packer believed the moment was something Rock and Smith had planned. "He didn't tell one planned joke," Packer explained about Rock's on-air comments. "I thought this was something that Chris and Will were doing on their own. I thought it was a bit. … We hadn't practiced it."
The Moment Packer Realized It Might Not Be Planned: "Once I saw Will yelling at the stage with such vitriol, my heart dropped. And I just remember thinking, 'Oh no, oh no. Not like this." Chris was keeping his head when everyone else was losing theirs. My heart was just in my stomach because of everything about it and what it represented and what it looked like and who was involved. All of that. I've never felt so immediately devastated like I did in that moment."
Rock's Joke Confirming to Packer That Smith Had Hit Him: "I just took a punch from Muhammad Ali."
On the Decision to Let Smith Stay at the Oscars Ceremony: Though the LAPD had explained to Packer and Rock what his rights were regarding pressing charges for battery assault, the Oscars producer says that Rock was dismissive of pressing charges, eventually choosing not to. From there, Packer says that show co-producer Shayla Cowan told him that "they" were about to physically remove Smith. While apparently not part of those conversations, Packer sought out Academy leadership to make them aware that Rock did not want Smith physically removed from the event. "I immediately went to the Academy leadership that was on site and I said, 'Chris Rock doesn't want that.' I said, 'Rock has made it clear that he does not want to make a bad situation worse.' That was Chris' image. His tone was not retaliatory, his tone was not aggressive and angry. And so I was advocating for what Rock wanted in that time, which was not to physically remove Will Smith at that time. Because, as it has now been explained to me, that was the only option at that point. It has been explained to me that there was a conversation that I was not a part of to ask him to voluntarily leave."
In Defense of Letting Smith Receive His Award & His Standing Ovation: "The people in that room who stood up, stood up for somebody that they knew — he was a peer, a friend, a brother. He has a three-decades-plus career of being the opposite of what we saw in that moment. These people saw the person that they know and they were hoping that somehow, someway, this was an aberration."
Packer Hoped Smith Would've Apologized to Rock in His Acceptance Speech: Would Packer have preferred Smith not to give his speech now having heard it and the response to it? "If he wasn't going to give that speech which made it truly better, then yes," Packer revealed. "Because then you don't have the optics of somebody who committed this act, didn't nail it in terms of a conciliatory acceptance speech in that moment, who continued to be in that room."
Smith Apologized to Packer the Following Morning: "[Smith] said, 'This should have been a gigantic moment for you.' And he expressed his embarrassment and that was the extent of it."