It’s been nearly a year since Will Smith struck Chris Rock on the Academy Awards stage. As a result, Smith is not expected to attend the 95th annual Oscars ceremony on Sunday night.
Smith isn’t the only notable talent that won’t be attending the Oscars this year. Reports indicate that “Top Gun: Maverick” star Tom Cruise has also been a no-show at the event, even though he is nominated as a producer for the blockbuster in the best picture category. After a very carefully curated series of stops during awards season, Cruise bows out on the final evening.
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“Avatar: The Way of Water” director James Cameron is also skipping the ceremony. His co-producer, Jon Landau, relayed the news to the New York Times’ Kyle Buchanan on the carpet, citing “personal reasons” as the explanation.
James Cameron will not be at tonight’s Oscars, says AVATAR producer Jon Landau — “personal reasons” — though they had a dinner with him and the other nominees last night. (Landau found this glowing blue tie on Amazon: “If Amazon’s listening, please reduce my Prime membership.”) pic.twitter.com/jncut4E6wn
— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) March 12, 2023
Under normal circumstances, Smith would be one of the presenters for the major awards categories in this year’s ceremony. He won best actor for his performance in “King Richard” last year. Traditionally, the previous year’s victors return to present an acting award. However, that will not be the case for the 2023 ceremony.
Smith hit Rock on stage during the 94th annual awards show after the comedian, one of the night’s presenters, made a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head. Pinkett Smith had spoken publicly about her struggles with hair loss due to alopecia, though Rock claimed he did not know about the illness when he quipped, “Jada, I love you. ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see you.”
In the days following the slap, the board of governors for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences decided to ban Smith from any Academy event for the next 10 years. Smith also pre-emptively resigned from the Academy in the days prior to his barring, later saying “I accept and respect the Academy’s decision.”
Moments after the incident with Rock, Smith returned to the stage to accept his first-ever acting Oscar win. In his speech, Smith related the act to his “King Richard” character, calling him a “fierce protector of his family.”
“Love makes you do crazy things,” he said, and also tearfully added: “I want to apologize to the Academy. I want to apologize to all my fellow nominees.”
Smith has apologized to Rock in a series of social media posts, beginning with an Instagram note that was shared the day after the incident.
“I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be,” Smith wrote.
He also dedicated an apology to “the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world,” and both the Williams family and “King Richard” team: “I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us,” he concluded.
Though Smith is banned from Academy events over the next decade, the actor is still eligible to be nominated; he will not be able to accept an award in person. Smith is not nominated for any awards at the 2023 Oscars and has kept a relatively low profile in months following the slap.
As previously reported by Variety, Smith is prepping for his first acting gigs in over a year, working with Sony for “Bad Boys 4“ and Netflix for “Fast and Loose.” Meanwhile, studio executives are still hesitant to work with Smith, with one high-ranking studio executive stating, “Everyone was waiting to see who would blink first.”
On the other hand, the March 4 premiere of Rock’s Netflix comedy special “Selective Outrage” placed the spotlight on the aftermath of the incident.
“I tried to call the motherfucker. I tried to call that man and give him my condolences. He didn’t pick up for me,” Rock said. “Everybody called him a bitch and who does he hit? Me.”
Rock also insinuated that the altercation between him and the Smith family started bubbling at the 2016 Oscars, which he hosted. That year, Pinkett Smith called for a boycott due to the lack of diversity in nominations. “She fucking said [I] should quit because Will didn’t get nominated for ‘Concussion.’ What the fuck? So then I do some jokes about it. Who gives a fuck? That’s how it is. She started it. I finished it. Nobody’s picking on this bitch. She started this shit. Nobody was picking on her.”
As for the Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences CEO Bill Kramer confirmed in an interview with Time magazine that the organization has implemented a new “crisis team” to avoid and navigate any potential real-time threats. Academy president Janet Yang previously said the group’s response to the incident was not swift enough.
“We have a whole crisis team, something we’ve never had before, and many plans in place,” Kramer said. “We’ve run many scenarios. So it is our hope that we will be prepared for anything that we may not anticipate right now but that we’re planning for just in case it does happen.”
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