Will Packer, the lead producer of the Oscars telecast that was thrown into upheaval after the actor Will Smith went onstage and slapped the comedian Chris Rock, said Friday that after Mr. Smith had been asked to leave the ceremony, he urged the Academy leadership not to “physically remove” him from the theater in the middle of the live broadcast.
Mr. Packer said he had learned from his co-producer, Shayla Cowan, that there were discussions of plans to “physically remove” Mr. Smith from the venue. So he said he immediately approached academy officials and told them that he believed Mr. Rock did not want to “make a bad situation worse.”
“I was advocating what Rock wanted in that time, which was not to physically remove Will Smith at that time,” Mr. Packer said. “Because as it has now been explained to me, that was the only option at that point. It has been explained to me that there was a conversation that I was not a part of to ask him to voluntarily leave.”
Mr. Packer gave his first interview since Sunday’s broadcast to “Good Morning America” on ABC, the network which also broadcasts the Oscars. In the interview, Mr. Packer said that Mr. Rock’s joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair was unscripted “free-styling”
“He didn’t tell one of the planned jokes,” he said of Mr. Rock.
Mr. Packer said that, like many viewers at home, he had originally thought the slap might be part of an unplanned comedic bit, and that he was not entirely sure until he spoke with Mr. Rock back stage that Mr. Smith had actually hit the comedian.
“I just took a punch from Muhammad Ali,” Mr. Packer recalled Mr. Rock telling him.
Mr. Packer said that Mr. Smith reached out and apologized to him the morning after the Oscars. And he praised Mr. Rock for having kept his cool. “Chris was keeping his head when everyone else was losing theirs,” he said.
The Altercation Between Will Smith and Chris Rock
“I’ve never felt so immediately devastated,” Mr. Packer said of the incident.
Shortly after the ceremony ended Sunday, the Los Angeles Police Department issued a statement saying that the person who had been slapped had “declined to file a police report.”
In the interview, Mr. Packer described his recollection of law enforcement’s involvement.
“They were saying, you know, this is battery, was the word they use in that moment,” Mr. Packer said in the interview. “They said we will go get him; we are prepared. We’re prepared to get him right now. You can press charges. We can arrest him. They were laying out the options, and as they were talking, Chris was being very dismissive of those options. He was like, ‘No, I’m fine.’ He was like, ‘No, no, no.’”
Both on Sunday night and in subsequent interviews this week, the Los Angeles police have maintained that Mr. Smith’s slap qualified as misdemeanor battery under California law — and that as a misdemeanor, officers cannot take action unless the victim in the case files charges, which Mr. Rock did not do.
In an interview on Thursday, Deputy Chief Blake Chow, of the Los Angeles Police Department’s West Bureau, described the department’s role in less dramatic terms. At the Oscars, police officers are primarily responsible for patrolling outside the Dolby Theater and the Academy hires a security company to handle issues inside the building, he said.
On Sunday, one police captain was stationed backstage as a liaison, the deputy chief said. The police captain inside did not observe the slap himself; but he quickly became aware of it, the deputy chief added. The police captain made contact with a representative for Mr. Rock shortly after the comedian had finished presenting an award and had returned backstage with his team, Deputy Chief Chow said.
The representative communicated “Chris Rock’s wishes” that he did not want to press charges or file a police report, the deputy chief said. “He didn’t want to do anything.”
The police department was not asked to escort Mr. Smith out of the venue, and even if the police had been asked to do that, such a request would not have fallen within the department’s purview, the deputy chief said.
Detectives followed up on Monday with Mr. Rock’s representatives to ensure that he still did not want to take action. He reaffirmed that he did not, the deputy chief said.
Mr. Rock made his first public comments about the incident on Wednesday at a comedy show in Boston. “I’m still kind of processing what happened,” Mr. Rock said, while promising to discuss the episode in greater depth later. “It’ll be serious, it’ll be funny, but I’d love to — I’m going to tell some jokes.”
The academy said Wednesday that it had initiated disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith “for violations of the academy’s standards of conduct, including inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behavior, and compromising the integrity of the academy.” It said that Mr. Smith would be given a chance to respond and that at its next board meeting, on April 18, it “may take any disciplinary action, which may include suspension, expulsion or other sanctions.”