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Academy’s new ‘crisis team’ ‘will be prepared for anything’ at this year’s Oscars

The Oscars are ready for the next surprise blowout.

Bill Kramer, the CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, announced the addition of a “crisis team” to help manage the response to unexpected incidents during the awards ceremony.

“We have a whole crisis team, something we’ve never had before, and there are a lot of plans,” Kramer told Time. in an interview published Tuesday. “We ran many scenarios. So it’s our hope that we’ll be prepared for anything that we may not foresee right now, but where we plan in case it does happen.”

Ever since Will Smith took the stage and punched Chris Rock after Rock made a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith — Kramer said the academy has since “opened our minds to the many things that can happen at the Oscars.”

“But these crisis plans — the crisis communications teams and structures that we have — allow us to say that this is the group we need to assemble very quickly,” Kramer said. “This is how we all come together. This is the spokesperson. This will be the statement. And obviously depending on the specifics of the crisis, and let’s hope nothing happens and we never have to use it, but we already have frameworks that we can change.”

Kramer praised the new team for the academy’s ability to allay concerns surrounding Andrea Riseborough’s surprise nomination. The “To Leslie” actor joined a short, powerful wave of A-list celebrities endorsing her performance, leading some to question whether awards campaign rules had been broken. A week after the nominations were released, the academy announced that Riseborough’s nomination remains valid and that the academy will work to refine and clarify the rules surrounding award campaigns.

“You know, that happened on a Tuesday and six days later we were able to issue our formal board statement that really worked out a plan for us,” Kramer said. “So you never know exactly what will happen. But you need to have the teams and frameworks and the processes to come together to figure things out quickly.”

Last week, at the annual nominees luncheon at the Beverly Hilton, Academy President Janet Yang expressed lingering concerns about the Smith incident and appeared to herald the academy’s addition of the crisis team.

“What happened on stage was completely unacceptable and our organization’s response was inadequate,” Yang told the luncheon guests. “We learned from this that the academy must be fully transparent and accountable for our actions. And especially in times of crisis, we must act quickly, compassionately and decisively for ourselves and for our industry. You cannot and should not expect less from us in the future.”

The academy said it will also lean on the veteran savvy of a familiar face, with Jimmy Kimmel returning to host the show for a third time.

“That’s why you want someone like Jimmy on stage who’s used to dealing with live TV: things don’t always go as planned,” Kramer said in the Time interview. “So you have a host who can really pivot and manage those moments.”

But even with the team and a reliable host, Kramer acknowledged that the unpredictability of live shows still leaves some things up in the air.

“And again, we’ve run some great scenarios, but … the details could change, and we’ll see what happens,” he said.

Times staff writer Josh Rottenberg contributed to this report.