Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Will Smith
There were certainly Will Smith jokes made at the 95th Academy Awards, but an executive producer of the event is explaining why there weren’t more.
Jimmy Kimmel, 55, hosted the ceremony on Sunday night, one year after Smith slapped Chris Rock onstage when Rock, 58, made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
Though jokes about the moment were very present, Molly McNearney, an executive producer of this year’s show and Kimmel’s wife, explained why her husband did not go “harder.”
“We didn’t want to make this year all about last year,” McNearney, 45, told Variety. “I cannot tell you how many Will Smith jokes we had that then we got rid of. We think that only the best for that room made it. There were certainly some that went harder, but we didn’t think that was our place to do that. That should be Chris Rock, not us.”
Still, they didn’t want to ignore the incident altogether. “We really liked the idea of making fun of the reaction to it last year,” said McNearney. “I think we’re all still in a bit of shock of how that went down and how after watching that violence everyone had to then sit through an acceptance speech.”
Last year, the moment was followed by Smith, 54, winning Best Actor for his role in King Richard; he took the stage but decided not to apologize specifically to Rock during his emotional acceptance speech.
Kimmel joked during his opening monologue on Sunday night, “We know this is a special night for you. We want you to have fun. We want you to feel safe. And most importantly, we want me to feel safe. So we have strict policies in place. If anyone in this theater commits an act of violence at any point during the show, you will be awarded the Oscar for Best Actor and permitted to give a 19-minute-long speech.”
Continuing, Kimmel took a moment to jokingly call out those who were present last year when the infamous slap went down. “Seriously, The Academy has a crisis team in place. If anything unpredictable or violent happens during the ceremony. Just do what you did last year: nothing,” he said. “Sit there and do absolutely nothing. Maybe even give the assailant a hug.”
Kimmel added that for those who “get mad at a joke” and want to react adversely, it is “not gonna be easy” this go round.
“There are a few of my friends you are going to have to get through first,” he said, before shouting out actors’ characters, including Pedro Pascal‘s Mandalorian character and Michael B. Jordan‘s Adonis Creed from Creed.
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Later in the night when introducing presenters for Best Documentary Feature, Kimmel deadpanned, “Hopefully it goes off this time without a hitch, or at least without Hitch,” a nod to Smith’s 2005 rom-com. “Please put your hands together and then keep them to yourself.”
As the awards marched toward the two-hour mark, Kimmel returned to the stage, asking with a chuckle, “At this point in the show, it kind of makes you miss the slapping a little bit, right?”
And at the close of the show, after Everything Everywhere All at Once won Best Picture, Kimmel threw in one last jab. “Great work, crisis team,” he joked, wrapping up the broadcast.
He then walked offstage, where he updated a sign that read, “Number of Oscars Telecasts Without Incident,” to read “001.”
At the Oscars ceremony last year, Smith went onstage and struck Rock, a presenter, after the comedian made a joke about Pinkett Smith’s hair.
Smith went on to win Best Actor for King Richard later that night, and he has since apologized to Rock and resigned from being a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The Academy also banned him from attending its events for 10 years.