American actor and rapper, Will Smith who is also known by his stage name, The Fresh Prince has resigned from Hollywood’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences after slapping popular comedian, Chris Rock.
In a statement he released on Friday afternoon, the actor described his actions at the 94th Academy Awards as “shocking, painful, and inexcusable”.
“I betrayed the trust of the Academy. I deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work.”
“So, I am resigning from membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and will accept any further consequences the Board deems appropriate.”
Smith’s resignation occupied official disciplinary action from the Academy board of governors, which met on Wednesday and initiated proceedings against Smith. Smith loses voting privileges with his resignation. But there are other, less tangible benefits to being part of the Academy, Hollywood’s most prestigious organization: it bestows industry credibility on its members. It’s invitation-only, with a once-a-year membership review.
The Academy president, David Rubin, said Smith’s resignation was accepted.
“We will continue to move forward with our disciplinary proceedings against Mr Smith for violations of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, in advance of our next scheduled board meeting on April 18,” he said.
It was not immediately clear what additional punishment Smith could face. Had he been expelled, Smith would have joined a small group of men removed from the academy: Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski, Bill Cosby and the actor Carmine Caridi, who was kicked out for sharing awards screeners.
On Sunday, Smith shocked Hollywood and viewers at home when he strode on stage and smacked Rock, moments after the comedian had made a joke at the expense of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
The fallout has shaken the industry. While some have rallied around Smith for coming to his wife’s defense, he has been widely condemned for responding with violence and casting a cloud over both his long-sought Oscar victory and the night’s other winners.
Many have questioned why Smith later received a standing ovation after winning the award for best actor and was allowed to remain seated front row at the Academy Awards after the incident. On Wednesday, the Academy claimed that it had attempted to remove the actor from the audience.
“Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated,” the Academy said. “While we would like to clarify that Mr Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognize we could have handled the situation differently.”
However, some media outlets have complicated the account of what exactly took place backstage, with sources saying that Academy leadership did not formally ask Smith to leave the ceremony and that the show’s producer, Will Packer, encouraged him to stay.
“I think what many of us were hoping was that he would go on that stage and make it better,” Packer said in an interview with Good Morning America.
“We were hoping that he would make it better, that he would stand on that stage and say what just happened minutes ago was absolutely and completely wrong [and say], ‘Chris Rock, I’m so sorry, please forgive me.’ That’s what I was hoping for. I felt like he was going to win and I was hoping that if he stayed, he said that.”
Smith, who won for his role in King Richard, did not apologize to Rock until the day after the show, when he wrote on Instagram;
“I was out of line and I was wrong … I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us. I am a work in progress.”
Rock declined to file charges when asked by police and has remained tight lipped since. Speaking at a comedy show in Boston this week, the comedian briefly alluded to the incident.
“I’m still processing what happened, so at some point I’ll talk about that shit,” Rock told the crowd. “It’ll be serious. It’ll be funny, but right now I’m going to tell some jokes.”