Oscars organizers "seriously" discussed having Best Actor-nominated Will Smith removed from the ceremony after he struck comedian Chris Rock during Sunday's live broadcast. Rock was presenting the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature when he made a joke about Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, saying he "can't wait to see" Pinkett Smith in "G.I. Jane 2." Smith at first laughed at the joke, but seconds later, the King Richard star walked on stage and smacked the comedian. From his seat, Smith twice yelled at Rock to "keep my wife's name out of your f—ing mouth!"
"Behind the scenes there were a lot of people, and different voices and bifurcated opinions, weighing in on what had just happened and what was the best and quickest course of action. People were also checking that Chris Rock was okay," an industry source told PEOPLE. "Basically there were just minutes to first figure out if it was a stunt and then try and get people on the same page — including the producers, ABC, the Academy, reps who were not all in the same place or all looking at their phones in real time, and even to see if Chris wanted to press charges."
Sean "Diddy" Combs later stepped on stage to play peacemaker, telling the Dolby Theatre audience, "Will and Chris, we're gonna solve that like family at the [Oscars afterparty]." Hours after the viral altercation, the Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement that Rock declined to file a police report against Smith.
According to the PEOPLE source, "Having Will removed was definitely discussed seriously. You can't plan for something like this and make a split-second decision that needs everyone's buy-in, and in any iteration that would have consequences."
A video captured moments after Smith attacked Rock showed Oscars presenter Tyler Perry and Best Actor nominee Denzel Washington soothing Smith after the altercation that left Rock visibly shaken. When accepting the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance as Richard Williams in King Richard, Smith apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees — but not Rock.
"The Academy does not condone violence of any form," the Academy said in a statement after Sunday's ceremony. "Tonight we are delighted to celebrate our 94th Academy Awards winners, who deserve this moment of recognition from their peers and movie lovers around the world."
Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images