While not a lot of people watched last’s year’s Oscars, everyone knows what happened: Jessica Chastain won Best Actress for playing Tammy Faye Bakker. OK, that did happen, but the far more noteworthy event that occurred was Will Smith, everyone’s favorite Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, slapped Chris Rock onstage in front of millions of people.
Now referred to as “The Slap,” the incident had immediate repercussions. Smith was banned from the Academy for 10 years and had some of his film projects either delayed or outright canceled. Rock laid low for a while and only in March commented directly about the incident in a popular Netflix comedy special, Selective Outrage. With the 2023 Oscars just around the corner, a lot of people are asking if the Suicide Squad actor is going to attend this year’s ceremony. After all, it’s a tradition for the Best Actor winner to return the following year to present the Best Actress award. So is Will Smith going to be at the 95th annual Academy Awards?
The answer is simple … and complicated
The short answer is no. The Academy has no plans to break its ban and let Smith return to attend the ceremony. That doesn’t mean that the 2023 Oscars won’t address what happened last year. In a press conference earlier this week, executive producer Molly McNearney announced, “We’re going to acknowledge it, and then we’re gonna move on.” She added, “We don’t want to make this year about last year. It’s certainly something we can and will address in a comedic fashion.”
At the very least, expect a few jokes here and there as comedians probably can’t resist poking fun at the incident. Who knows, maybe Chris Rock will make a surprise appearance and make some joke about it as a way for everyone to “move on.”
A distant but still possible scenario is Smith himself returning. After all, before “The Slap,” the Academy’s most embarrassing moment ever was when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced the wrong Best Picture winner in 2017. That incident, known now as “Envelopegate,” involved Dunaway mistakenly reading Emma Stone’s Best Actress envelope for La La Land instead of the Best Picture envelope, which revealed the winner to be Moonlight. Yet only a year later, the Academy brought Dunaway and Beatty back to present the Best Picture Oscar to Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water.
If the Academy was willing to bring the perpetrators of one of its biggest public embarrassments back so soon, it’s not out of the realm of improbability that they could be planning to secretly bring Smith back to make amends. It could be the best way for everyone involved to forge ahead.
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