Chris Rock‘s joke about Jada Pinkett Smith‘s hair — which prompted Will Smith to approach the comedian and slap him in the face during Sunday night’s Academy Awards — wasn’t included in the original script for the ABC telecast, a source close to the situation tells EW.
“I can say the joke itself was not in the script,” the industry source says, explaining that, while representatives “seriously discussed” removing Smith from the ceremony just before he won Best Actor for his performance in King Richard, the nature of the fast-paced broadcast got in the way of immediate decision-making. “With a live show and with comedians, there are always jokes that are not in script. There’s that idea of shock and then trying to figure out what just happened and going from there.”
A representative for Rock did not respond to EW’s request for confirmation that the joke was not in the script, and Smith’s representatives did not return our emails requesting comment on the conflict. On Monday afternoon, Smith posted a statement on Instagram apologizing for his actions, saying in part, “My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.”
Our source recalls that on Sunday night, representatives from the Academy, ABC, and reps for Rock and Smith were all involved with in-the-moment discussions on how to proceed.
“You’re also trying to make sure Chris Rock is okay,” they explain. “So basically, to make a very huge decision like that, which either way would’ve had consequences within the show, in a 10-minute span and get everybody together and have that discussion logistically was a nightmare and borderline impossible.”