Academy Leaders and Will Smith Discussed Oscars Slap Before Emergency Board Meeting (EXCLUSIVE)

Will Smith Oscars
Christopher Polk for Variety

Leaders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences met with Will Smith on Tuesday to discuss his attack on Chris Rock, individuals with knowledge of the matter told Variety.

Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson talked to the actor on Zoom about the fallout from the assault during Sunday’s Oscars telecast. The talk lasted for roughly 30 minutes, according to a source. Another source familiar with the meeting said only that the conversation was “brief.”  Smith apologized again to Rubin and Hudson for his action, expressed his awareness that there would be consequences and tried to explain why he snapped when Rock made a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair. Pinkett Smith has said she suffers from hair loss due to alopecia.

Attendees at an emergency meeting of the Academy’s Board of Governors on Wednesday did not recall Rubin or Hudson mentioning their talk with Smith on the previous day. Following that meeting, the Academy announced that Smith had violated the group’s code of conduct and faced “suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions.” The Academy also said it asked Smith to leave the ceremony following the incident, but he refused. Others disputed the characterization of events, with sources saying the Academy’s request was not explicitly made and that producer Will Packer urged the actor to remain, Variety previously reported.

Smith went on to win best actor for his performance in “King Richard.” He gave a five-minute speech in which he seemed to liken his behavior to his character Richard Williams’ defense of his daughters, tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams.

“Love will make you do crazy things,” he said. “To do what we do, you got to be able to take abuse. You got to be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business you got to be able to have people disrespecting you. And you got to smile, you got to pretend like that’s okay.”

Smith did not apologize to Rock on Sunday but did offer an apology in a statement on Monday.

“I was out of line and I was wrong,” the actor said. “I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.”