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Inside the Oscars' Will Smith slap inaction: “Officially, we don’t want you to leave. We want you to stay," producer Will Packer reportedly told the actor

  • The Los Angeles Times' Glenn Whipp and Josh Rottenberg spoke to more a dozen people who were near Smith at the 94th Academy Awards or who had direct knowledge of what transpired after Smith slapped Chris Rock. According to The Times, after a shaken Rock declined to press charges backstage, the Academy tried to address whether Smith should be removed. "When the show broke for commercial, some 10 minutes after The Slap, academy CEO Dawn Hudson and President David Rubin immediately sprang from their seats in the audience and headed backstage," The Times reports. "After first making sure that Rock was OK, they found Smith’s longtime publicist, Meredith O’Sullivan. An academy lawyer joined them in a private room. Furious over Smith’s stunning breach of decorum and concerned it would overshadow the entire show, an industry source said academy leaders told O’Sullivan they wanted the actor to leave the Dolby Theatre as soon as possible. The message, they thought, was unequivocal. And it was mutually agreed upon that O’Sullivan would deliver that request to Smith during the next commercial break." But other sources say the message was more ambiguous, as if it was Smith's decision to leave. During the third commercial break after The Slap and the last before the Best Actor award would be handed out, "Packer came racing across the room with that urgent message: 'Officially, we don’t want you to leave. We want you to stay,'" a source tells The Times. Meanwhile, in his Good Morning America interview, Packer said he didn’t speak directly with Smith during the show. "But, to O’Sullivan and Smith, the message was clear: The academy wanted Smith to stay. The matter was settled," says The Times.


    • Celebrity publicists still shudder over the "PR nightmare" of Will Smith's slap: The Washington Post's Emily Yahr interviewed several celebrity publicists who had the same reaction -- “Thank God that’s not my client.” "During the Academy Awards on March 27, millions of viewers witnessed a rare event: a celebrity publicity nightmare, and the attempted cleanup, in real time," says Yahr. "Over the past decade-plus, being a Hollywood publicist has become a lot more complicated. While it was once primarily about shaping and promoting your client and their image, the job now requires instant crisis management; thanks to social media, disaster can strike at any time as images and video travel everywhere in mere minutes. That’s exactly what happened when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock onstage at the Oscars, except on an even grander scale, in front of a global audience." Yahr notes that Smith’s longtime publicist, Meredith O’Sullivan Wasson, inadvertently found herself in the spotlight during the slap controversy when she was spotted speaking to him. “I think myself, like most people who do this, you felt this sort of sick feeling,” said one Hollywood publicist. “It’s so much pressure to figure out the right move, and what’s the right thing to do … and hoping your instincts are right. And I don’t think anyone’s ever been in a situation like that.”
    • Ricky Gervais defends Chris Rock for mocking Jada Pinkett Smith's alopecia: "Well, I’m going a bit thin, so I’m disabled"

    TOPICS: Will Smith, ABC, 94th Academy Awards, Chris Rock, Ricky Gervais, Will Packer, Award Shows