Rumors About The Academy's Response To Will Smith Just Got Even More Complicated

When "King Richard" star and best actor Oscar winner Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on March 27 during the live Academy Awards broadcast, not only did it shock and confuse viewers at home, it also garnered huge reactions from those inside the Dolby Theatre. The day after, video and photo images emerged, reportedly from the commercial breaks, that showed several high-profile celebs like fellow Oscar-nominee Denzel Washington taking Smith under his arm to offer some sage advice, and also put his arm around wife Jada Pinkett Smith. Actor and director Tyler Perry and "Nightmare Alley" star Bradley Cooper were also seen talking to Smith.

According to video taken by Variety's Ramin Setoodeh, who was seated in the balcony, Smith's publicist came to speak with him during the commercial break as well, although it is unknown what was said. On March 30, the Academy released a statement, claiming that they asked Smith to leave the theater, which they say he refused to do, per BuzzFeed News. The statement also lamented how the Academy handled the event, writing, "... we also recognize we could have handled the situation differently."

Now, reports are emerging that the Academy's assertion that they asked "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" star to leave is a lie, and several sources close to the situation have offered what they say really happened behind the scenes. 

Sources say Will Smith was never actually asked to leave the Oscars

TMZ reports that after the Will Smith-Chris Rock altercation, Academy officials and Smith's reps were backstage, hotly debating how to proceed. Sources close to those conversations have told the outlet that some wanted Smith thrown out, while others did not, and the heated convo failed to reach a consensus. "The Pursuit of Happyness" star was aware the whole time of these convos (perhaps via that conversation with his publicist we saw on Twitter), but the sources have told TMZ that Oscars producer Will Packer directly approached Smith and told him specifically that the Academy did not want him to leave. This apparently happened five minutes before Smith was named best actor winner for his role in "King Richard."

The Academy has since done an about-face, stating that they have begun disciplinary proceedings against the "Men In Black" star for violating the Academy's Standards of Conduct, "including inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behavior, and compromising the integrity of the Academy," per The Hollywood Reporter. Smith faces suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions that have not been itemized. Some have speculated Smith might have his Oscar revoked.

So while we wait to see what will come of the "greatest night in the history of television," as Rock put it, we have to hand it to Oscar producers for keeping Smith in the theater, knowing full well his Oscar acceptance speech would be something else.