‘Crisis team’ hired for this year’s Oscars ceremony after the Will Smith slap

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‘Crisis team’ hired for this year’s Oscars ceremony after the Will Smith slap

A “crisis team” will be introduced at this year’s Oscars, to handle any real-time incidents as a response to Will Smith slapping Chris Rock during the 2022 ceremony.

Academy chief executive Bill Kramer told Time magazine the new unit had “run many scenarios” in the hope they will be “prepared for anything”.

“Because of last year, we’ve opened our minds to the many things that can happen at the Oscars,” he said.

They are now quicker to react, he said.

Academy president Janet Yang previously said the response to Smith’s altercation with Rock was not swift enough.

Smith slapped the comedian after he made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head, which she shaved following an alopecia diagnosis. After returning to his seat, the actor repeatedly shouted, “Keep my wife’s name out your [expletive] mouth” at Rock.

Despite the incident, he remained at the ceremony and later collected the best actor Oscar for his performance in King Richard.

Although Smith later resigned from the Academy, it took several more days for the organisation to make a decision on his membership. He was ultimately banned from the Oscars gala and other Academy events for 10 years.

Kramer said the new team would be able to gather “very quickly” to issue a response on the night of the show itself.

“Let’s hope something doesn’t happen and we never have to use these [plans], but we already have frameworks in place that we can modify.”

The crisis team has already been deployed, following the surprise best actress nomination for British actress Andrea Riseborough last month.

The star’s little-seen indie film To Leslie was an outsider in the Oscars race, but she secured a nomination after being championed by stars like Gwyneth Paltrow, Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston and Edward Norton.

Questions were raised over whether their endorsements contravened the Oscars’ rules on campaigning.

The Academy quickly responded that the issues did “not rise to the level that the film’s nomination should be rescinded”.

“You know, that happened on a Tuesday and, six days later, we were able to issue our formal statement from the board that really carved out a plan for us,” Kramer told Time.

Asked about the ability to respond to “potential surprises” at this year’s ceremony, which will take place on 12 March, Kramer said having TV presenter Jimmy Kimmel as host was an asset.

“You want someone like Jimmy on stage who is used to dealing with live TV,” he said. “Things don’t always go as planned, so you have a host in place who can really pivot and manage those moments.”

He said he felt audiences “feel very safe and engaged with his energy”.

In 2017, Kimmel steered the Oscars back on track after La La Land was mistakenly announced as the winner of best picture.

“It hit me that I was the only one wearing a microphone, and I should probably go up there to sort it out,” said the chat show host in the aftermath of the incident.

Last year’s awards were hosted by US comics Wanda Sykes, Regina Hall, and Amy Schumer.

“It’s so important to have a host who knows how to handle live television and a live audience,” Kramer added, saying he hoped it was “the beginning of a lovely, long new relationship” with Kimmel.

Kramer, aware of dwindling TV audience figures, added that this year’s show would be “much more immersive, much more nominee-focused, and much more focused on all of the disciplines of filmmaking”.