Packer, 47, opened up about the feeling inside of the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles following the jaw-dropping altercation, telling Good Morning America in an interview that aired on Friday, April 1, that he believed Rock, 57, salvaged the rest of the awards show.
“Because Chris handled the moment with such grace and aplomb, it allowed the show to continue,” the Florida native said, noting that things “could have gone so many different ways” after Smith, 53, smacked the comedian across the face. “Because Chris continued the way he did — he completed the category, he handed the trophy to Questlove, somebody who was really robbed of their moment — it gave us license to continue the show, which is what we were trying to do.”
From Packer’s perspective, the incident was “sad and disappointing” to witness. “It was such a huge moment and … it wasn’t something that we were gonna come back from within that night, within this week,” he explained. “I don’t know when we’ll come back and people will be talking about anything else other than this show.”
The 94th annual Academy Awards came to a halt on Sunday, March 27, when Smith got out of his seat in response to a joke Rock made about Jada Pinkett Smith being cast in G.I. Jane 2. The quip referred to the 50-year-old actress’ shaved head, which is a result of her battle with alopecia.
Packer claimed that authorities were “prepared” to arrest the I Am Legend actor following the altercation, but Rock turned police away. Packer also stated on Friday that he was “not part of” any conversations that may have been had about removing Smith from the premises. (The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences previously issued a statement noting that they asked the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air alum to leave, but he allegedly refused.)
“I said, ‘Rock has made it clear that he does not want to make a bad situation worse,'” Packer told GMA, claiming that he “immediately went to The Academy leadership” in the theater to keep them from ejecting Smith. “That was Chris’ image, so I was advocating what Rock wanted in 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.”
Us Weekly previously confirmed that the former Saturday Night Live star did not file a report with the Los Angeles Police Department. Smith, for his part, issued a public statement regarding the now-viral slap on Monday, March 28, calling himself a “work in progress.”
Smith wrote via Instagram, “Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. … I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.”
Despite his social media message, multiple sources exclusively told Us that Smith has not yet reached out to Rock personally. During a comedy show on Wednesday, March 30, the Everybody Hates Chris alum told the audience, “I haven’t talked to anyone despite what you may have heard.”
Scroll down for more behind-the-scenes revelations from Packer: