Oscars producer Will Packer is revealing new details about what happened behind-the-scenes on Sunday (March 27) after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on stage during the ceremony.
The FAMU alumnus appeared on Good Morning America Friday (April 1) where he answered questions about the on-stage incident and what conversations were had with Chris Rock and the Los Angeles Police Department.
During the interview with T.J. Holmes, Packer shared that he, like many other viewers, thought Will's slap was a comedy bit they had planned. But, quickly learned that wasn't the case at all. The first-time Oscars producer also said the joke that started it all wasn't in the official script.
"Once I saw Will yelling at the stage with such vitriol, my heart dropped. And I just remember thinking, 'Oh no, not like this,'" Packer said.
"Chris was keeping his head when everyone else was losing theirs. My heart was just in my stomach because of everything about it and what it represented and what it looked like and who was involved. All of that. I've never felt so immediately devastated like I did in that moment."
Backstage, Packer said that Chris confirmed that Will had actually hit him. "I just took a punch from Muhammad Ali," Rock said, according to Packer, though the comedian was "very much in shock."
After confirming the slap was real, Chris reassured Packer that he was fine and that the LAPD came to Packer's office "laying out very clearly what Chris' rights are. They were saying: This is battery. We will go get him. We're prepared."
The Academy Takes Action
Days after the incident the Academy announced it would be launching a "formal review" of the incident. One board member told The Hollywood Reporter that they haven't be told what exactly happened behind-the-scenes after the slap or who actually told Will Smith to leave the show.
Packer told GMA that Shayla Cowan, who co-produced the awards told Packer that "they" were about to physically remove Will Smith from the show.
"I immediately went to the Academy leadership that was on site and I said, 'Chris Rock doesn't want that.' I said, 'Rock has made it clear that he does not want to make a bad situation worse.' That was Chris' image," Packer said.
"His tone was not retaliatory, his tone was not aggressive and angry. And so I was advocating for what Rock wanted at that time which was not to physically remove Will Smith at that time. 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."
Packer said Will Smith called him in the morning on Monday (March 28) to apologize.
"[Smith] said, 'This should have been a gigantic moment for you.' And he expressed his embarrassment, and that was the extent of it."