Will Smith-Chris Rock slap: Sources deny actor was formally asked to leave Oscars

A claim from the organisation behind the Oscars that Will Smith was formally asked to leave the ceremony after he attacked comedian Chris Rock is being disputed, Variety reports.

The Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences on Thursday said Smith "was asked to leave the ceremony and refused" after he walked onto stage, slapped Rock, and then yelled expletives at the comedian who had just joked about Smith's wife.

"The Board of Governors today initiated disciplinary proceedings against Mr Smith for violations of the Academy's Standards of Conduct, including inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behaviour, and compromising the integrity of the Academy," the statement said.

But Variety on Friday reported sources "close to the situation" as saying Smith was never formally asked to leave. The sources claim that while some members of the Academy signalled they wanted the actor to be removed, there was never a formal request. 

Another source said the Academy's President David Rubin and chief executive Dawn Hudon had an onsite representative ask Smith to leave the ceremony.

Smith would go on to win the Best Actor award for his performance as tennis players Serena and Venus Williams' father, Richard, in the film King Richard.

Variety says Will Packer, who produced the show, wanted Smith to stay, according to one source. The producer reportedly spoke to Smith before he received his award. Another source has denied Packer urged Smith to remain at the ceremony. 

The drama unfolded after Rock made a joke about Smith's wife Jada Pinkett Smith's bald head. Pinkett Smith, an actress herself, suffers from alopecia, which can cause hair loss. Smith walked onto the stage, slapped Rock and returned to his seat. The actor then twice yelled: "Keep my wife's name out your f**king mouth."

While guests - and the world - were initially confused if the moment was scripted or real, it's since become clear it was very, very real.

Smith has apologised for his actions but faces consequences from the Academy. 

"Consistent with the Academy's Standards of Conduct, as well as California law, Mr Smith is being provided at least 15 days' notice of a vote regarding his violations and sanctions, and the opportunity to be heard beforehand by means of a written response," the Academy's statement said.

"At the next board meeting on April 18, the Academy may take any disciplinary action, which may include suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions permitted by the Bylaws and Standards of Conduct."

Rock spoke out on Thursday, saying he is "still kind of processing what happened". 

"At some point I'll talk about that shit. And it will be serious and funny."

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