Banned by the Academy from attending the Oscars for 10 years, Will Smith will not be able to continue the current lead actor’s tradition of presenting the lead actress award during this year’s ceremony.
After slapping host Chris Rock onstage during last year’s show, Smith won the lead actor award for his powerful performance in “King Richard.” If it weren’t for the ban, Smith would likely have been invited to present the lead actress award, while current lead actress winner Jessica Chastain would be on hand to present the lead actor; Troy Kotsur, the current winner for supporting actor, would be chosen to introduce supporting actress; and current Supporting Actress winner Ariana DeBose is expected to nominate Supporting Actor.
But now the Academy’s controversial punishment for The Slap (Smith was banned from the Oscars for a decade) has raised a major question: Who will unveil the 2023 winning lead actress on Sunday night?
When asked about the presentation dilemma at a news conference Wednesday, Oscars co-producer Ricky Kirshner would not name names, but did offer insight into internal discussions surrounding this year’s lineup.
“I walk in and everyone says, ‘This is what we used to do.’ And there’s no more, ‘This is what we used to do,’” Kirshner said.
“We rethought the show and brought together the hosts in ways that make sense for the series and you’ll see it on Sunday night.”
The practice of the reigning class of acting winners of handing out awards to their successors did not begin to take hold until the mid-1980s. It is worth noting that reigning acting champions being unable or unwilling to perform the following year is a scenario unusual but not unprecedented.
In 2018, for example, “Manchester By the Sea” Oscar-winning actor Casey Affleck refused to attend the Academy Awards after two women sued him for sexual assault. That year, two former Lead Actress winners, Jennifer Lawrence and Jodie Foster, introduced the category, praising the “personal strength forged from the challenges they faced as women” from their peers. (Frances McDormand won the award for her role in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”)
Alternative arrangements were also made after “The Dark Knight” star Heath Ledger died of an accidental drug overdose at age 28 in January 2008 and won the supporting actor award in February 2009. Supporting Actress Robin Williams presented the 2010 Supporting Actress Award to Mo’Nique for her performance in “Precious.”
In those cases, when the previous interim winner was absent, the duty of presentation fell to another previous interim winner, or two, in his place.
Excluding last year’s acting winners, that criteria applies to just three of this year’s confirmed presenters: Halle Berry won the leading actress award for “Monster’s Ball” in 2002; Nicole Kidman won for lead actress for “The Hours” in 2003; and Jennifer Connelly won Best Supporting Actress for “A Beautiful Mind” in 2002.
Based on the aforementioned cases, Berry, Kidman, or both would be the most likely to present the Oscar for Lead Actress at the 95th Academy Awards.
However, if Kirshner really meant it when he said, “there’s no more, ‘This is what we used to do,’” then anyone could be eligible for the job.
Rounding out this year’s presenters are Pedro Pascal, Kate Hudson, Harrison Ford, Paul Dano, Cara Delevingne, Mindy Kaling, Eva Longoria, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Andie MacDowell, Elizabeth Olsen, John Travolta, Dwayne Johnson, Jonathan Majors, Andrew Garfield, Florence Pugh, Halle Bailey, Antonio Banderas, Elizabeth Banks, John Cho, Hugh Grant, Danai Gurira, Salma Hayek Pinault, Sigourney Weaver, Riz Ahmed, Emily Blunt, Glenn Close, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael B. Jordan, Melissa McCarthy, Janelle Monáe, Deepika Padukone, Questlove, Zoe Saldana and Donnie Yen.
Naturally, Twitter has also weighed in on the discourse surrounding this year’s presentation quandary.
A person suggested that Berry, the first black woman to win the Oscar for best leading actress, should present the honor, especially if “Everything Everywhere All At Once” favorite Michelle Yeoh makes history as the first Asian woman to win the award. another pondered that Chastain should present the awards for both Lead Actor and Lead Actress. Someone else argued that the producers should let Yeoh “introduce it to herself.”
And, of course, several people offered Rock, who said in August that he turned down the chance to host this year’s show and joked that going back on stage at the Oscars would be like going back to the scene of a crime. But hey, you never know.
Times Staff Writer joseph rottenberg contributed to this report.