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The LAPD was ready to arrest Will Smith after the slap, Will Packer says

Oscars producer Will Packer says the LAPD was ready to arrest Will Smith after slapping Chris Rock, citing battery.
Robert Gauthier
Getty Images
Oscars producer Will Packer says the LAPD was ready to arrest Will Smith after slapping Chris Rock, citing battery.

Updated April 1, 2022 at 11:00 AM ET

Oscars' guests and viewers are still reeling over Will Smith's surprising and infamous onstage slap of comedian Chris Rock, who joked about Jada Pinkett Smith's hair. Shortly after, Smith went onstage to accept the Best Actor Oscar for his role in King Richard.

Will Packer, producer of the Academy Award ceremony, told the ABC News show Good Morning America that until the slap, the show's producers were ecstatic about how well the evening had been proceeding. " It was like someone poured concrete in that room," he said. "It was this feeling of — what just happened? Is this real? How am I supposed to react? So it sucked the life out of that room and it never came back."

Packer told GMA that Los Angeles police officers were ready to arrest Will Smith if Rock wanted to press charges.

"They were saying, 'This is battery.' That was the word they used in that moment," Packer told T.J. Holmes, in an exclusive interview that was teased during ABC's World News Tonight. "They said, 'We will go get him. We are prepared. We will go get him right now. You can press charges. We can arrest him. They were laying out the options. And as they were talking, Chris was, he was being very dismissive of those options. He was like, 'No, I'm fine.' He was like, 'no, no, no.' And even to the point where I said, 'Rock, let them finish.'"

In the clip, Packer said after the officers finished laying out what Rock's options were, "they said, 'Would you like us to take any action? And he said no.'"

Packer also said he did not speak to Smith at all on Oscar night. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released a statement saying Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused.

In his acceptance speech, Smith apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees for the incident, but not Rock. On Instagram the following day, Smith wrote that he was embarrassed by his behavior and told Rock he was sorry. Still, the Academy began disciplinary proceedings against Smith-- which could include "suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions permitted."

SAG-AFTRA is also weighing sanctions against Smith.

On Wednesday night, Rock was onstage in Boston with a new comedy routine. He didn't say much about the slap. "I'm still kind of processing what happened," he said, adding that at some point he will talk about it "and it will be serious and funny."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.
Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.