Academy member says Will Smith should return his Oscar award
Will Smith should “voluntarily” return his Oscar award for Best Actor, a member of the Motion Picture Academy has said.
In a Variety op-ed on Saturday (9 April), veteran screen and stage actor Harry Lennix called the King Richard actor’s 10 year Oscars ban a “toothless penalty” and compared his action of slapping Chris Rock over a GI Jane joke “an extended time out for a playground bully” that “lays bare the shallowness of Hollywood morals”.
On Sunday (27 March), Rock was presenting the award for Best Documentary when he made a joke about the appearance of Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith.
“Jada, I love you. GI Jane 2, can’t wait to see you,” he quipped in an apparent reference to the actor’s shaved head.
Smith then walked onstage and struck the comedian, yelling “keep my wife’s name out your f***ing mouth”.
“Smith’s brutality stripped the entire evening of its prestige,” Lennix, 57, wrote. “That was proven when stunned Oscar attendees gave a standing ovation to someone who’d just committed an assault in front of their eyes.
“With one deft blow, Will Smith created an existential crisis for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences,” he added. “The incident was such a jolt to societal norms that it will gnaw away at our national conscience until somehow properly atoned for.”
Lennix concluded that “the stain on the Motion Picture Academy cannot be easily remediated” and that “the only hope for a justifiable grace must involve Smith voluntarily returning his award for best actor.”
On Saturday, the Academy announced that Smith has been banned from the Oscars and any related Academy events for the next 10 years.
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In an open letter, Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson wrote that this year’s Oscars “were overshadowed by the unacceptable and harmful behaviour we saw Mr Smith exhibit on stage.”
They continued: “This action we are taking today in response to Will Smith’s behaviour is a step toward a larger goal of protecting the safety of our performers and guests, and restoring trust in the Academy. We also hope this can begin a time of healing and restoration for all involved and impacted.”
In a statement, Smith said: “I accept and respect the Academy’s decision.”
Five days after the slap, Smith sent an official resignation to the Academy, stripping him of his membership to the Oscars awards body.
Smith’s resignation was accepted, but President Rubin commented: “We will continue to move forward with our disciplinary proceedings against Mr Smith for violations of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct.”