The biggest Oscars moment from last year’s ceremony—Will Smith hitting Chris Rock after the comedian made a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith—needs no reminder, we’re sure. The Academy debated whether to have Smith leave the ceremony immediately after the slap, which led to commotion in the actual room. Smith was permitted to stay and accept the award for best actor instead; it wasn’t until after the ceremony that the Academy decided to penalize him by removing him from future ceremonies for a ten-year period.
As we head into this year’s Oscars, the Academy has decided to prepare for another slap-level incident should one occur, and that means it’s hired an official crisis team. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences CEO Bill Kramer told Time in a 22 Feb. interview, “We have a whole crisis team, something we’ve never had before, and many plans in place. We’ve run many scenarios. So it is our hope that we will be prepared for anything that we may not anticipate right now but that we’re planning for just in case it does happen.”
He said, choosing Jimmy Kimmel as the show’s host was also inspired by Kimmel’s “ability to actually pivot and manage” unforeseen situations.
The CEO acknowledged that the Academy could have “acted more promptly” in its response to the smack last year. He continued, “And I’m not just talking about the night of the show. This is actually how we responded to the episode, how we discussed it with Will and Chris, as well as with our hosts and members. Kramer added that the Academy benefited from this year’s level of preparation when it came to dealing with Andrea Riseborough’s contentious 2023 Oscar nomination.
Regarding the 2022 ceremony, Kramer said it “opened our minds” to what exactly can happen at the Oscars, so the crisis team will help guide who will be the spokesperson, who will make statements, and other logistical and decision-making issues in the event of another mishap. “Let’s hope something doesn’t happen and we never have to use these, but we already have frameworks in place that we can modify,” he added.
As for this year’s Oscars night, hopefully the only surprises will come from fashion, red carpet interviews, and the actual winners. The 2023 Oscars airs on 12 March.