“‘The Academy has a crisis team in place. If anything unpredictable or violent happens during the ceremony, just do what you did last year: nothing . Sit there and do absolutely nothing. Maybe even give the assailant a hug.’”
That was 2023 Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel on Sunday, roasting the audience and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scientists for essentially freezing during “The Slap” at last year’s Academy Awards.
It should come as little surprise that comedian and late-night host Kimmel drew on the most shocking moment in recent Oscars history for his opening monologue: when Will Smith responded to a joke that presenter Chris Rock made about the “Ali” actor’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, by walking onstage during last year’s awards show and slapping Rock across the face. Smith then returned to his seat, where he shouted “Keep my wife’s name out of your f—ing mouth.” Twice.
He then won the Oscar for best actor for playing Venus and Serena Williams’ father in “King Richard” later in the show, which was his first Oscar. And Smith gave a rambling speech while accepting his award. “Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father” said Smith. “But love will make you do crazy things.”
So Kimmel joked during this year’s ceremony that it was very important for the Oscar attendees — and, more importantly, himself — to feel safe during Sunday night’s broadcast. He said that the Academy had put a policy in place where, “If anyone in this theater commits an act of violence at any point in the show, you will be awarded the Oscar for best actor and permitted to give a 19-minute-long speech.”
And he added that, “If any of you get made at a joke and decide you want to come up here and get jiggy with it” — referencing Smith’s 1997 hit “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” — it’s not gonna be easy.
Last year’s Oscar slap threatened to overshadow this year’s awards show. Academy president Janet Yang was asked about “the elephant in the room” on the red carpet before the awards began. “Our response was inadequate, and now we’re moving on,” she said.
Kimmel also referenced the Smith slap before the show, suggesting the switch from a red carpet to a champagne-colored one, “shows how confident we are that no blood will be shed.”
Smith has been banned from the Oscars and all Academy Award events for the next 10 years. He released a public apology video last July, saying, “I’ve reached out to Chris, and the message that came back is that he is not ready to talk. But when he is, he will reach out.”
Related: Will Smith admits ‘I lost it’ when slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars
He continued, “So I will say to you, Chris, I apologize to you. My behavior was unacceptable, and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk. I’m human and I made a mistake and I’m trying not to think of myself as a piece of s—.”
Rock doesn’t seem ready to let bygones be bygones just yet, as he took plenty of verbal swings at Smith during his recent live Netflix
Read more: Chris Rock on why he didn’t hit Will Smith back: ‘I took that hit like Pacquiao’
Among his bits that night, Rock said that he had previously loved Smith. “I rooted for him my whole life,” he said. “And now I watch ‘Emancipation’ [the Apple TV+
film in which Smith plays a slave] just to see him getting whupped.”