Oscars producer reportedly told Will Smith he could stay after slap, despite Academy's claim he refused to leave

Will Smith
(Image credit: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

Was Will Smith actually asked to leave the Oscars after slapping Chris Rock?

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences claimed as much, but new reporting from TMZ and Variety is calling this into question. On Wednesday, the Academy said after he slapped Rock at the Oscars over a joke about his wife, Smith "was asked to leave the ceremony and refused." But TMZ now claims the Academy "lied" about this and that Oscars producer Will Packer actually told Smith he could stay.

According to the TMZ report, the slap incident led to a debate backstage about whether Smith should be removed from the show, and "there was a split" about what to do. But ultimately, TMZ says that about five minutes before Smith accepted his Oscar for Best Actor, Packer told him, "We do not want you to leave."

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Meanwhile, Variety also cites sources who insist Smith was never "formally urged to leave the show." Like TMZ, Variety reports that Packer allegedly "said that he and the production 'officially' wanted Smith to stay for the remainder of the show." A source close to Packer denied this, though, and another source claimed to Variety that Smith "was asked to leave through an on-site representative."

The Academy faced criticism for not removing Smith, who received a standing ovation when he accepted his Best Actor award after slapping Rock. Oscars co-host Wanda Sykes called the decision to let him remain at the show "gross." The Academy's Wednesday statement never clarified who allegedly asked Smith to leave.

The Academy also said it initiated disciplinary proceedings that could lead to Smith's expulsion from the organization. Smith has a movie coming out with Apple this year, Emancipation, which is expected to be a potential 2023 Oscar contender.

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