Motion Picture Academy President Calls Its Response to Will Smith Slapping Chris Rock ‘Inadequate’

“We learned from this,” Janet Yang noted at Monday’s Oscar Nominees Luncheon

Janet Yang Will Smith
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Janet Yang and actor Will Smith (Getty Images)

Janet Yang, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, called her organization’s response to Will Smith’s physical assault on Chris Rock during last year’s Oscar telecast “inadequate.” She made the comment amid opening remarks during Monday’s annual Oscar Nominees Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton.  

“I’m sure you all remember we experienced an unprecedented event at the Oscars,” Yang told the attendees. “What happened onstage was fully unacceptable and the response from our organization was inadequate.”  

Furthermore, she continued, “We learned from this that the Academy must be fully transparent and accountable in our actions, and particularly in times of crisis you must act swiftly, compassionately and decisively for ourselves and for our industry. You should and can expect no less from us going forward.” 

Smith walked onto the stage at last year’s globally-broadcast Academy Awards telecast and struck presenter Chris Rock, to the shock of everyone watching in the theater and on television. He did so in response to a joke from Rock directed at Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, referencing her bald/shaven head in relation to Demi Moore’s 1997 military drama “G.I. Jane.”  

Smith returned to his seat, shouted at Rock to “keep [his] wife’s name out of [Rock’s] f***ing mouth,” and stayed for the remainder of the show. He would, less than an hour later, win Best Actor for his role in “King Richard.”  

Following the incident on March 27, 2022, the Academy board of Governors voted on April 8 to ban the actor from the Oscars for a ten-year period. That vote was preceded by Smith voluntarily resigning from the Academy that prior week.  

“The Board has decided, for a period of 10 years from April 8, 2022, Mr. Smith shall not be permitted to attend any Academy events or programs, in person or virtually, including but not limited to the Academy Awards,” then-AMPAS president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson announced at the time of Smith’s “unacceptable and harmful behavior.” 

The actor had an already-completed film, Apple TV+’s $120 million, Antoine Fuqua-directed runaway slave drama “Emancipation” in contention in this year’s award seasons. However, mixed reviews and a generally indifferent response meant it wasn’t a player in this year’s Oscar race.  

Smith currently has a fourth “Bad Boys” in active development at Sony, along with Paramount’s YA adaptation “Brilliance” from “Ms. Marvel” director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy in development. He is currently an executive producer on Peacock’s dramedy reboot of “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” titled “Bel-Air.”

Please see Janet Yang’s full statement.
“Last year, as I’m sure we all remember, we experienced an unprecedented event at the Oscars. What happened on stage was wholly unacceptable and the response from our organization was inadequate.

We learned from this that the Academy must be fully transparent and accountable in our actions…and particularly in times of crisis, we must act swiftly, compassionately, and decisively…for ourselves and for our industry. You should, and can, expect no less from us going forward.

We are committed to maintaining the highest of standards…while creating the changes we wish to see in our industry. These efforts extend beyond the Oscars and include broadening existing opportunities within the industry, as well as mentoring and inspiring young people who aspire to work in our illustrious disciplines. This is how we create the global film community of the future – one that is open to ideas and cultures from all corners. 

I urge us all to focus our efforts on nurturing the extraordinary, brilliant community that we inhabit. I want to remind us of the deep respect and love we have for our fellow colleagues…and for the art of filmmaking. I invite us to grow together, for the collective power of this room and this industry are unstoppable.

Our focus for the upcoming Oscars will, in fact, be on unity, partnership, and the collaborative nature of cinema. We shall celebrate the power of entire film crews and the behind-the-scenes magic that make movies possible and powerful. 

Together with you, as the industry confronts various headwinds, the Academy aims to be a driver of unity – for our artists and for the public.”