Will Packer has opened up for the first time following Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards. Packer, who produced the event confirmed details of what occurred backstage during an interview shared Friday morning (April 1) on Good Morning America. The interview, led by ABC News’ TJ Holmes, revealed the Los Angeles Police Department was ready to arrest Smith directly following the incident.
“The LAPD made it clear,” Packer confirmed. “‘We will do whatever you want us to do, and one of the options is that we will go and arrest him right now.'”
He added, “The LAPD came and needed to talk to Chris. And so they came into my office and they were laying out very clearly what Chris’ rights were. They were saying: ‘This is battery. We will go get him. We will go get him right now, you can press charges, we can arrest him.'”
While the LAPD offered to have the veteran actor arrested, no criminal charges were filed and he remained at the ceremony, accepting the Best Actor award moments later.
Smith has since apologized to Rock via social media and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has disclosed he is facing disciplinary action. In its statement issued on Wednesday (March 30), the Academy suggested the King Richard star was asked to leave but refused. TMZ reported that according to sources, Smith was never asked to leave the event. The tabloid suggested that Packer himself informed Smith not to exit.
Packer told ABC News what occurred at the moment. The news outlet reported that Packer did not speak directly to Smith, but his co-producer, Shayla Cowan, informed him of the Academy’s intent to have Smith removed.
“It happened right before the best actor award,” Packer described, noting that he was not part of the conversation with the Academy. “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.'”
Rock, who delivered his first remarks on the incident during a stand-up comedy performance on Wednesday evening revealed he is “still processing” the entirety of the event. Packer recalled speaking to Rock shortly after and shared the comedian was visibly still stunned.
“I said: ‘Did he really hit you?'” Packer recalled asking Rock off-stage just moments after the incident. “And he looked at me and he goes: ‘I just took a punch from Muhammad Ali.’ It’s exactly what he said, as only Chris can, you know. He was immediately in joke mode, but you could tell that he was very much still in shock.”
Watch Will Packer’s interview on Good Morning America below.