Oscars Producer Will Packer Explains Why Will Smith Didn’t Leave Ceremony

Will Packer backstage at the 94th Annual Academy Awards in 2022
Al Seib /A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images

The details surrounding the 2022 Oscars ceremony are becoming clearer as the event’s executive producer Will Packer sat down to talk about that slap between Will Smith and Chris Rock on Good Morning America.

Chatting with T.J. Holmes on ABC’s morning program, Packer provided a fuller picture to explain why Will Smith wasn’t kicked out of the ceremony. When Holmes asks if the police were on standby to remove the Best Actor winner, Packer confirmed, “That’s an absolute fact. The LAPD made it clear ‘We will do whatever you want us to do and one of the options is that we will go and arrest him right now.'”

Ultimately, according to Packer, it was Rock who determined that Smith could stay after he was given the option to have the nominee removed ahead of his category. “It happened right before the best actor award,” Packer revealed. And although Packer claims the Academy was ready to eject Smith, he shared, “I immediately went to the Academy leadership that was on-site and I said: ‘Chris Rock doesn’t want that,’ I said: ‘Rock has made it clear that he does not want to make a bad situation worse.'”

At first, Packer was excited to see Rock take the stage as he watched his entrance from a monitor backstage. “I said, ‘watch this, he’s gonna kill.’ Cause I knew he had an amazing lineup of jokes that we had. We had them in the prompter and ultimately, he did not get to one joke.”

Yes, Rock’s G.I. Jane comment about Smith’s wife Jada wasn’t part of the program as Packer stated that Rock “didn’t tell one of the planned jokes, he was just immediately freestyling. But I tell you, if there’s anybody you don’t worry about going out in front of a live audience and riffing off the cuff is Chris Rock, nobody’s better.”

That riffing didn’t pay off when it sparked Smith’s walk up to the stage, leading to a slap that’s now become the subject of debate among viewers. Like the viewers at home, Packer wasn’t exactly sure whether the moment was going to be a bit or not when he saw Smith approach the stage. “I thought this was part of something that Chris and Will were doing on their own, I thought it was a bit… I figured okay… something funny is gonna happen because that’s the nature of Chris and that’s the nature of Will.”

Nothing funny happened though as Rock was slapped by Smith and Packer knew it wasn’t scripted. “Once I saw Will yelling at the stage with such vitriol my heart dropped and I just remember thinking, oh no.”

See the full interview with Packer, here, and catch a portion of it in the Twitter video, above.