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‘People Always Ask Me That’: Will Packer Defends Decision to Show Will Smith and Chris Rock’s Oscar Confrontation Instead of Fading to Black or Taking a Commercial

Will Packer, one-half of the team that produced the 2022 Oscars, says he was in an impossible situation as he and the world watched Will Smith slap Chris Rock during the live broadcast.

“When you do a big live show like that, you have many rehearsals. You do the whole show and you run it through multiple times. It’s live, you want very little room for error, so you rehearse every aspect of the show,” Packer told “Club Shay Shay” podcast host Shannon Sharpe.

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Will Packer (L) and Chris Rock and Will Smith (R). Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by David Livingston/FilmMagic. ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

As most people likely recall, Rock made a joke comparing Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald appearance to that of “G.I. Jane.” However, the wisecrack was not well received by the actress or her husband. Smith, in an uncharacteristic fit of rage, stormed the stage, slapped Rock, and then returned to his seat, where he yelled, “Keep my wife’s f**king name out of your mouth.” Like everyone else, the “Stomp The Yard” director said he was unsure if the audience had witnessed an unrehearsed comedy bit play out.

As previously reported, the comedian’s joke about his “Madagascar” co-star was off the cuff. Packer said, “We had done Chris’ part of the show, in there on the stage he had done his monologue, his jokes; we had a section already worked out. When he got up almost immediately he was off book from the monologue that we had rehearsed, and so I didn’t think much of it at all because it’s Rock — if it’s anybody you want to go off book, it’s Rock. He’s got this; he’s going to play to the crowd.”

The film producer said the Oscars director immediately panned to Pinkett Smith, whose face clearly said, “‘I’m not amused, and this is not funny to me.’” Packer said he immediately cringed. What followed next was even more cringe-worthy.

“When I tell you nobody in that room knew what was about to happen other than Will — and I’m not even sure Will knew what was about to happen when he stood up — so no, I did not know,” reiterated Packer about his lack of knowledge of the comedian’s plan to take comical aim at Smith’s wife.

He added that he was initially unaware that the slap had even occurred. “I thought this was some kind of bad joke that the two of them had put together, but it wasn’t that funny. It wasn’t until Will got back in his seat and he started yelling what he yelled to the stage that we all knew, ‘Oh, this is real. We got a problem.’”

Packer also defended the production team’s decision not to cut to commercial when the jaw-dropping ordeal began to unfold. “People always ask me that,” he began. “We’re covering him [Smith] because that’s what you do. You don’t want to miss the joke if it’s some kind of joke. … I did not have anywhere to go but to follow the action in that room and it happened so fast that we didn’t know, ‘OK, we need to fade to black, go to commercial.’ No, it was like, ‘How do we get out of this?’ … I didn’t have a person in that room I could cut to because everybody’s face was shocked, aghast,” he explained.

In the end, “Chris saved the rest of the show,” said the box office hitmaker. The “Everybody Hates Chris” creator left immediately after the incident to attend an after party. Smith remained at the show and received his first Academy Award for his portrayal of Venus and Serena Williams’ father in “King Richard.”

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