Last year’s Academy Awards featured perhaps the most famous moment in Oscar’s long history: Will Smith stormed the stage to slap Chris Rock. The shocking incident is apparently a wake-up call for the Academy, which will implement a “crisis team” at this year’s show to act more quickly if something, anything, goes awry.
“We have a full crisis team, something we’ve never had before, and a lot of plans in place,” Bill Kramer, CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), told Time. magazine in a recent interview. “Because of last year, we opened our minds to a lot of things that could happen at the Oscars.”
Kramer, who was named CEO of the Academy in July, said the crisis team includes communications professionals and undefined frameworks that he hopes “we will never have to use.”
The Oscars have struggled to attract the huge TV audiences it once did — 2021 was a record low — though last year’s slapstick was as viral a moment as TV can get. After Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s alopecia, her husband, Will Smith, stormed the stage, slapped the comedian and yelled “Keep my wife’s name out of your mouth.”
Smith, who won the best actor Oscar last year for his role in King Richard, is after banned by the Academy from attending the Oscars or other related events and programs within 10 years.
“What happened on stage was completely unacceptable and the response from our organization was inadequate,” AMPAS President Janet Yang said in February. “We learned from this that the Academy must be fully transparent and accountable for our actions, and especially in times of crisis you must act quickly, compassionately and decisively for ourselves and the our industry. .”
After four muted months, Smith apologized to Rock, Rock’s mother and fellow award nominees in a July video posted on his Facebook and Instagram pages. “I reached out to Chris, and the message that came back was that he’s not ready to talk. And when he is, he’ll be,” Smith said in the video. “So let me tell you, Chris, I apologize to you … My behavior was unacceptable, and I’m here if you’re ready to talk.”
Rock, for his part, spoke about the incident on various standup shows last year. Last July, Rock pointed to the slap when he told a crowd that “anyone who says ‘words hurt’ didn’t get punched in the face.” The following month, he said during a set that he turned down the invitation to host the Oscars in 2023although it is probably small.
“As an institution, we need to act quickly and compassionately and engage with our members and nominees in a transparent manner,” Kramer told Time. “We could have moved faster. And I’m not just talking about the night of the show. It was really our response after the show, and how we talked about it, and how we talked to Will and Chris, and our hosts. and our members. It’s an opportunity to bring people together.”