The Oscars Slap Divides Hollywood and Raises Questions

LOS ANGELES — As questions swirled about why the actor Will Smith had faced no repercussions for slapping the comedian Chris Rock during Sunday night’s Oscars telecast, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which administers the awards, said Monday that he had condemned his actions and was starting a formal review.

“The academy condemns the actions of Mr. Smith at last night’s show,” the organization said in a statement. “We have officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our bylaws, standards of conduct and California law.”

The statement came after a meeting Monday.

The incident unfolded Sunday night after Mr. Rock had made a joke about the closely cropped hair of Mr. Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who has alopecia, a condition that leads to hair loss. Mr. Smith responded by walking onto the stage of the Dolby Theater and slapping Mr. Rock, leaving stunned viewers wondering at first if the blow might have been scripted until Mr. Smith returned to his seat and warned him to stop talking about his wife, using expletives.

Behind the scenes at the Oscars, there were serious discussions about removing Smith from the theater, according to two industry officials with knowledge of the situation who were granted anonymity to describe internal deliberations. But time was short, because the best actor award, which Mr. Smith was heavily favored to win, was fast approaching, one noted — and stakeholders had varying opinions on how to proceed. There was also concern about further disrupting the live broadcast, the other said.

As the show went on, the actor Denzel Washington spoke with Mr. Smith during a commercial break. (Mr. Smith said that Mr. Washington had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you.”) Not long after that Mr. Smith won best actor. In his speech, Smith apologized to the academy and to his fellow nominees — but not to Mr. Rock — and defiantly sought to draw parallels to the character he played in “King Richard,” the father of Venus and Serena Williams.

“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” Mr. Smith said.

He received a standing ovation.

The incident overshadowed the awards. On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” on Monday George Stephanopoulos described it as “something we have never seen before, something that is very hard to process: Will Smith, walking up onto that stage after Chris Rock told a joke about his wife — simply assaulting Chris Rock.”

Sperling reported from Los Angeles. Jacobs and Stevens reported from New York. Dave Itzkoff contributed reporting.

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