Oscar producer Will Packer is speaking out almost a week after Will Smith stunned audiences by storming on stage and slapping Chris Rock across the face during the ceremony after Chris made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith. 

In an interview with Good Morning America’s TJ Holmes, Packer revealed that he spoke to Rock immediately after the incident, asking:

“‘Did he really hit you?’ 

And he looks at me and goes, ‘Yeah. I just took a punch from Muhammad Ali.’ He was right away in joke mode, but you could tell that he was in complete shock.”

Packer, who was at the helm of the first all-Black Oscar production team, said that he did not directly talk to Smith – and that like most viewers and audience members, he thought the slap was staged at first:

“I thought it was a bit, like everybody else… I thought it was a bit… We hadn’t practiced it.”

When it was clear that what was happening was in fact not a bit, Packer said:

“My heart dropped. I remember thinking, ‘Oh no. Not like this.’ 

I’ve never felt as immediately devastated as I did in that moment.”

He also revealed that the LAPD were ready to arrest Smith right after the incident:

“They were saying, you know, this is battery was the word they use in that moment. They said we will go get him; we are prepared. We’re prepared to get him right now.”

He said that he said to Chris at the time:

“‘You can press charges. We can arrest him.’ They were laying out the options, and as they were talking, Chris was being very dismissive of those options. He was like, ‘No, I’m fine.’ He was like, ‘No, no, no.’

I knew it was clearly a confrontational moment because of what was happening from Will in the audience, but I still wasn’t sure that he actually struck him. I made that clear, like, Rock, you tell me, whatever you want to do, brother. And he was telling me, ‘I’m fine.’”

Packer stated that he did not speak with Smith after what happened, but approached Academy leadership at the show to convert that Rock did not want him removed:

“That was Chris’ energy. His tone was not retaliatory, it was not angry, so I was advocating what Rock wanted in that time which was not to physically remove Will Smith at that time because as it has now been explained to me, that was the only option at that point.”

He said this about whether he thought Smith should have left:

“I think what many of us were hoping was that he would go on that stage and make it better. It couldn’t be made right in that moment, because of what had happened but I think we were hoping that he would make it better, that he would stand on that stage and say what just happened minutes ago was absolutely and completely wrong [and say], ‘Chris Rock, I’m so sorry, please forgive me.’ That’s what I was hoping for. I felt like he was going to win and I was hoping that if he stayed he said that.”

A new report however is conflicting with Parker’s recounting of the events. 

While he said that Rock did not want Smith removed from the Oscars at the time, sources have since stated that this is not true:

“We’re told that Packer is conflating this from a conversation that happened after Smith slapped him onstage, where Rock told Packer he did not want to press charges. Had he chosen to do that, the LAPD would have removed Smith and arrested him.

Had Packer asked Rock if he wanted Smith removed from the building, he might have gotten a different answer. The question of where Smith should have been left in place to receive his Best Actor Oscar and give a speech where he apologized to everyone but Rock, this was never asked of the comedian.”


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