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Will Smith Refused to Leave Oscars Ceremony, Academy Says as It Weighs Discipline

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LOS ANGELES—Will Smith was asked to leave the Oscars ceremony after he slapped presenter Chris Rock but refused, Hollywood’s film academy said on Wednesday as it started a process that could lead to the best actor winner’s expulsion from the group.

During the live telecast, Smith strode up to the stage after Rock made a joke about the appearance of Smith’s wife, then smacked the comedian’s face. The actor returned to his seat and twice yelled an obscenity at Rock.

Less than an hour later, Smith accepted the best actor trophy, prompting questions about why he was not escorted out.

“Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated,” said the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Oscars, in a statement.

“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.”

The academy said it started a process that could lead to discipline against Smith for violations of its standards of conduct. Suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions may be approved at its next board meeting on April 18.

Smith apologized to Rock, the academy and viewers in a statement on Monday, saying he was “out of line” and “reacted emotionally.”

Rock had referenced the 1997 film “G.I. Jane” in which actress Demi Moore shaved her head. It was unclear whether Rock was aware that Pinkett Smith has a condition that causes hair loss.

Will Smith (R) appears to slap Chris Rock onstage during the 94th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Calif., on March 27, 2022. (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

Under the academy’s rules, Smith has the chance to provide a written response before the group takes action. Smith’s representatives did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

The academy in its statement apologized to Rock and thanked him for “resilience in that moment.”

After the incident, the comedian quickly regained his composure and announced the winner of best documentary, Questlove’s “Summer of Soul.”

Oscars co-hosts Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes said they

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