“Officially we don’t want you to go. We want you to stay.”
That was the message Will Packer, this year’s Academy Awards producer, was quick to pass on to Will Smith less than 45 minutes after the Academy Award-nominated beat host Chris Rock on stage at the Dolby Theatre.
For those who watched the drama on stage and backstage on March 27, the exact memories of what happened after the slap were shocking and even contradictory.
Among the more controversial points are the following: The statement from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences says Smith was “asked to leave the party and refused.” Smith’s team disagreed with the nature of the request.
The Times spoke to a dozen people who were at the Oscars that night or had firsthand knowledge of what had happened, and through the conversations some things became clear.
Due to the sensitivity of the situation, none of the sources wanted to be named. Smith Academy representatives declined to comment.
“I think everyone has their truth,” one source commented. “There are five people who really know what happened that night. And in those moments of stress, things could have been misunderstood from all sides.”
Behind the scenes at the Dolby Theater, tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams – in support of the nominated best movie “King Richard” – were watching half of the broadcast.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Zoe Kravitz were waiting to walk onstage, as was Kevin Costner, who would soon present an Oscar for Best Director.
Then the slap happened and the room fell silent.
Most assumed it was a touch of comedy. There was no way that the kind and respectful Smith would break into the stage for a rockstar punch on live TV because of a joke.
Nothing could be more contradictory to the image that the star painstakingly developed over three decades of hit films, Bachelors and lots of other successful projects.
“Social media guru. Falls down a lot. Freelance coffee fanatic. Tv enthusiast. Gamer. Web lover. Unapologetic troublemaker.”