Academy Members React To Will Smith’s Oscars Ban for Chris Rock Slap – The Hollywood Reporter

Carol Connors, music branch: “He’s not going to be able to present next year, and I think hurray for that. I don’t think he should be allowed on the Academy stage. What he did on the world stage was unacceptable. Ten years is an important round number. I don’t think it should have been one year or five years. Ten is appropriate. But I’m glad he will not present next year, after what he did. What if Chris would have fallen down and hit his head? The one guy is what, 140 pounds soaking wet, and the other guy played Muhammad Ali. Can you imagine what must have gone through Chris’ mind at that moment? And I think he handled it with great dignity.”

Stephen Potter, sound branch: “I have to say I’m surprised at the Academy’s formal response of a 10-year ban on Mr. Smith, which is harsher than I imagined it would be. Ten years is quite a long time and it’s possible this incident will mostly be forgotten before this term concludes. I think the Academy could have responded more quickly, but by waiting it suggests they carefully weighed their options. Mr. Rock maintained composure under very unexpected circumstances, and I applaud him for averting what could have been a total disaster. I believe Mr. Smith’s reaction was fueled by Ms. Pinkett Smith’s glaring look, and it’s unfortunate he chose to react as he did. The opinions are split between those who do and don’t support Mr. Smith’s actions, but the fact remains this incident was very unfortunate on many levels.”

Larry Gleason, executives branch: “The Academy dropped the ball by not taking action when it happened. This after-the-fact punishment is like the old saying, “Closing the barn door…” Too late and too little. After the La La Land fiasco, you would have thought they would have handled it better. Sad event for all concerned.”

Don Hahn, producers branch: “I hope it buys time for Mr. Smith to reflect and get help with the complicated issues that seem to haunt him. And we owe Chris Rock an honorary statue and some ibuprofen for holding it all together with humility.”

Harry Shearer, actors branch: “If Will Smith, or any other A-list actor, had run onstage and simply pulled down his pants and defecated, I seriously doubt he’d/she’d be back on that stage in 10 years, or ever. (Maybe, after a wrongheaded war, if the stage were radioactive.) A decade-long ban seems oddly parental, as in, he’ll have outgrown his slappin’ phase by then.”

Barry Morrow, writers branch: “As a believer in second chances, I want to see Mr. Smith host next year’s telecast. Punishment should fit the crime.”

Mitchell Block, documentary branch: “The board of governors should have reviewed why David Rubin and/or Dawn Hudson failed to have Will Smith immediately removed from the theater after he physically attacked one of the hosts. Their poor judgement demonstrated an inability to lead and be proactive under pressure and respond to this behavior. I am deeply disappointed that the governors did not censure them.”

Chuck Braverman, documentary branch: “As a longtime member, I am disturbed by many of the actions and moves at the Academy. The bigger issue than Will Smith is whether the Academy cares more about the value of the Oscar or the money from the network broadcast. Being voted on by your peers is everything. Comic book films and franchise movies would be nominated every year if the show was written by a network buyer, but that would be self-defeating and the Oscar would be a joke. Spending large for the museum has put the Academy into a financial hole. But a physical assault is totally unacceptable. Smith’s Oscar should be revoked and returned.”

Stephen Geller, writers branch: “What security measures is the Academy taking to ensure the safety of its audience and participants within any and all events held on its various premises? Should not those who have caused such disruption be subject to immediate civil and/or criminal penalties?”

Beverly Walker, marketing/public relations branch: “Too much. Given that he had already resigned and apologized elaborately, five years would’ve been sufficient. But there is an issue which, surprisingly to me, has been almost totally ignored, and that is the Academy’s longstanding habit of hiring comedian/hosts to march out and insult or make fun of the very people being celebrated. Given the expressions on some faces, there have undoubtedly been some who would’ve liked to make some sort of protest. What Rock said was egregious and he had to know it would not be appreciated. This should’ve been taken into consideration in meting out punishment to Smith.”

Stu Zakim, marketing/public relations branch: “It was too little. He should have been banned for life from re-applying or qualifying for a nomination for his arrogance and lack of sincerity in his apology. It showed a lot of remorse when he was dancing to his songs at the Vanity Fair party! Another blown chance for Academy leadership to show some.”

Lawrence David Foldes, producers branch: “These governors, and the present AMPAS upper administration, ‘govern’ by inaction and reaction, as once again evidenced by the gross mismanagement of the assault and battery that took place at the Oscars, and its aftermath. The result of today’s meeting comes up short of the penalty that Will Smith should have received. At the very minimum, Smith should have also been permanently barred from future membership.”

Rabbi Marvin Hier, documentary branch: “I’ve known Will Smith for a long time. He’s done many good things for the Museum of Tolerance [which Hier runs], but this was beyond the pale and the Academy did the right thing.”

John Van Vliet, visual effects branch: “Assault is assault. If that had been any ‘non-celebrity’ charging up on stage to strike a performer, they would probably have been arrested. Physically striking another performer went far beyond what would be considered tolerable ‘antics’ and should result in Mr. Smith being removed from the Academy completely.”

Steven Scott, members-at-large branch: “Since he had already resigned, the Academy’s decision to temporarily — yes, temporarily — remove him means he will suffer no consequences from the Academy for his violent, unprecedented physical and verbal attack on a fellow performer, Chris Rock, for simply not liking his joke. I also am disappointed that Chris Rock and The Academy decided not to press charges for Will’s attack. … What message are we sending — that when we’re assaulted, it’s best to just keep our ‘composure’ and not complain? Before someone tells me that other Hollywood A-listers have done awful things, yet kept their Oscars, none of them did their crimes live, on air, from the Academy home stage on our special night, in front of all the world to see. There is no precedent for Will’s horrific physical and verbal assault, and the punishment should have been unprecedented as well. I am disgusted by my Academy’s appallingly weak, amoral, kowtowing-to-an-A-lister response. Disgusted!”

Rutanya Alda, actors branch: “I think it’s too late, frankly. It would have been better had they escorted him out and someone else would have accepted for him. How sweet if Chris Rock had! That would have been enough for me. I don’t want the drama to continue. It does not benefit the image of the Academy.”

Directors branch member: “Will Packer should have been suspended for going rogue, as well as banned from ever producing the show. It would have been interesting to require Will Smith to attend anger management; also to bring Smith, Jada, and Chris Rock together in some kind of mediated session; and then, assuming all could be worked out, have the three of them make a statement together. They could have opened next year’s show.”

Producers branch member: “This is the first time the Academy has ever addressed an email ‘to our Academy family.’ The Academy should have asked the ‘family’ that voted to give Will Smith an Oscar what to do instead of taking almost three weeks behind closed doors to zigzag to a decision. In my opinion, Smith’s movies have contributed so much joy to the audience, and what he did was so out of character, that he should be given a path to redemption, not just a penalty.”

Marketing/public relations branch member: “At this point, it’s too little too late. Will Smith already resigned, and he can be nominated in the future. Chris Rock is selling out his tour. The ones left holding the bag are the Academy members. I am in the film business because of the impact the Oscars had on me growing up. They were the epitome of class, elegance and a celebration of film. The day I became an Academy member was one of my proudest moments of my life. Last year’s ceremony and pre-show were a disgrace. I was so distraught by it that I couldn’t sleep. My guiding light had been destroyed. This year’s slap has put a nail in the coffin of an organization I’m now embarrassed to be a part of. I wish I could say that they will turn the ship around but, unfortunately, their hubris may cause their demise. I know that Will Smith will survive the slap and he will be around here 10 years from now. I’m not sure if I can say the same about the Academy.”

Documentary branch member: “I would like for the Academy to have made it clear that his membership would have been revoked had he not resigned. There is an obituary in today’s New York Times for Gerda Weissmann Klein, who appeared in the Oscar-winning short documentary One Survivor Remembers. There was a time when we celebrated the best of what human beings can be. Her speech in part: ‘On their behalf I wish to thank you for honoring their memory, and you cannot do it in any better way than when you return to your homes tonight to realize that each of you who know the joy of freedom are winners.’ Will Smith’s behavior scares me. I feel like he got a slap on the wrist instead of what he deserves.”

Marketing/public relations branch member: “I feel this is as far as the Academy could go at this time legally and within their by-laws. It’s OK for Will Smith to keep his Oscar, as we must be able to separate the artist from the art. The problem is he should not have been allowed to remain in the theater, he should not have been allowed to make his blubbering acceptance speech, and he should not have shown such brazen arrogance and disrespect to the Academy by attending the Vanity Fair party with his Oscar. The Academy really needs to engage in some serious soul-searching to recover from this fiasco on top of the existential industry challenges we are facing.”

Actors branch member: “The Academy stated that they were ‘unprepared for the unprecedented.’ My entire career has been preparing for the unprecedented. That is what we all do in the film business. And as a writer, an actor and a director, if those words ever came out of my mouth, I would have been fired. Also, isn’t that what creative thinking is all about? I find the Academy’s apology as superficial as Mr. Smith’s apology.”

Marketing/public relations branch member: “While I’m extremely upset and disappointed by Will Smith’s disruption of the ceremony and think his behavior was deplorable, this just feels so punitive without purpose. The angry villagers are waving their pitchforks so the Academy hands down what they feel is their harshest punishment to satiate the bloodthirst. I would rather focus on addressing the violence that erupted and find a way to talk about that meaningfully so everyone can heal. I don’t have the answer, but I think that conversation is worth having.”

Short films/feature animation branch member: “Given the nature of what he did, I think it’s a fair judgement. He’s not really been held accountable in any other way outside of public debate.”

Film editors branch member: “I think the Academy’s decision is just right, and I am glad they let him keep his Oscar. His talent is undiminished by his actions. Maybe Chris Rock can present next year’s best actress award in his place!”

Actors branch member: “I think it’s right. Longer or forever might work, too. An unconscionable act of violence, particularly in this setting, merits huge reprisal and consequence. It also sends the word out to similarly inclined people that that kind of action is not OK and will be punished. Some people may not believe that virtue has a place in the world anymore, but millions would disagree; likewise for forbearance, tolerance and being able to dismiss offense that has no physical agency.”

Marketing/public relations branch member: “It’s just exactly right given there isn’t much the Academy could do. What he did was abominable for so many reasons. He hurt the film he was promoting, he set an awful example for how anyone should deal with an upsetting situation and he tarnished the Academy in the process, which he probably doesn’t even care about now that he has an Oscar. Personally, I would like to see him put his money where his hands were and make a tremendously huge donation to charity. That would be the only grown-up way to handle this for a person who has made millions off of all of the people who had to suffer through watching his reprehensible actions that night.”

Film editors branch member: “I don’t feel that removing him from Academy events for a short 10 years is a harsh enough punishment. It seems like a small price to pay given his actions. He needs to be held accountable for assaulting someone on live TV. The Academy should have done more — perhaps a hefty fine — in addition to banning him from events. Sadly, this simple punishment could be sending a message to others that it’s okay to assault another human.”

Marketing/public relations branch member: “This was a mere slap on the wrist from the Academy. A more serious and fitting consequence would have been severing all ties: a lifetime ban from the Academy, Oscars and all events, as well as being ineligible for future Oscar nominations and wins. We all know that he’ll be back in few years, receiving his next Oscar on stage, or accepting his lifetime achievement award. I hold Will Packer responsible for the poor response, first and foremost. A producer’s job is to react quickly and smartly to unprecedented events, especially to protect those on their show. Packer should have gone to commercial break; attended to Chris Rock, who was pretty shaken up; and removed Smith immediately. No asking permission from anyone. That’s being a good producer. I’m campaigning for Guillermo del Toro to take over the reins of the Academy — a filmmaker and leader with heart, brains and the courage of his convictions. In truth, the world around us is falling apart, and this is what’s on everyone’s mind. Prayers for us all!”

Executives branch member: “This was one of those situations without a right answer, because the board had to take action to express that this was behavior mandating expulsion, and yet there are no good precedents or obvious guidelines. … Will Smith didn’t actually hurt Chris Rock, it appears; he just behaved abominably and technically committed assault, and in doing so brought shame on the Academy in a very public way. Yet 10 years feels extreme — more in line with a true felony or something with more long-lasting damage. What’s the effect of this punishment? In particular, does it age well seven years from now when he’s still being punished for losing his temper and publicly slapping someone? Given most of the purpose of the punishment is symbolism, I’m guessing that by, say, 2029 the symbolism won’t be particularly worthy or strong and will feel like overkill. Three years feels more right to me, but again, there wasn’t a right answer, so very tough to second-guess them.”

Sound branch member: “The Academy president and CEO were not thinking at all about the AMPAS Rules of Conduct & Behavior, but about whether ordering Will Smith to leave the ceremony would be perceived as racist. Weakness and a dereliction of duty on the part of the heads of AMPAS and total control in the hands of Will Packer. The latest move by the BOG is a token slap, with no serious fines or loss of Will Smith’s Oscar. There needs to be a wholesale change of the corporate governance, returning the power back to its paying members.”

Marketing/public relations branch member: “The 10-year suspension is fine, but not enough. Smith did a great disservice to black and brown communities. Imagine how the huge number of racists in this country and elsewhere are rejoicing over the endless negative publicity. The show and the slap have certainly taking the Academy’s prestige down several more notches. Many of my peers would like to see a full housecleaning at the Academy. I won’t go that far, but change is required. We need to elevate AMPAS before it’s too late.”

Documentary branch member: “Maybe, just maybe, we’re back from the brink of peak humorlessness. It’s never OK to hit anyone, but more importantly, a culture is judged by how much it can laugh at itself, and really very little should be off limits.”

Marketing/public relations branch member: “Unless I misunderstand the board’s process, as well as what the board assigned itself to reckon with, in their tone-deaf decision the governors regarded Smith’s actions as ‘conduct unbecoming,’ not the actual public, violent assault it was. I can only wonder: If Russell Crowe had done this rather than what he did do years ago, would they have been as forgiving? As for the ‘punishment,’ boo-hoo, Will can’t ‘get jiggy’ with AMPAS for 10 years, but he can be nominated by the standing-O crowd who condoned and applauded his inconceivably delusional and senseless behavior because, five minutes prior to that moment, he was a movie star.”

Members-at-large branch member: “I was quite disappointed. A classic case of too little too late. Maybe a 20-year ban. And some kind of very strong statement of condemnation. The whole thing was handled poorly. Very weak. Very wishy-washy. Very sad.

Marketing/public relations branch member: “I think Will got off lucky: he didn’t face any criminal charges. He eclipsed very touching moments like Troy Kotsur’s speech and Jessica Chastain’s speech.”

Associate member: “I think 10 years is too long, but I am very glad they didn’t take his Oscar. Chris Rock and the nasty roast/ comic stuff should also be addressed. Let’s talk about treating each other with civility. Let’s have the Oscars not be mean. Let the Golden Globes be raucous and messy. The Oscars should have class. Not humorless, but humor does not have to be at the expense of others. And for Pete’s sake, please, never another marathon season. It kills everything. Everyone ends up hating the movies in contention. I guess it is all just too much these days. You cannot underestimate the toll Covid has taken on all of us — everyone is in a low-key bad mood a good deal of the time and stress is constant. All of this contributed to a super bad bit of history that an otherwise good guy must pay for for a significant period of time. I wish he hadn’t done it. I bet he feels the same. Violence is never OK.”

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