You can take the punch out of the Oscars (or Will Smith out of the Academy), but you can’t take the punch out of the Oscars, not even – maybe special — at the 2023 Oscars.
Host Jimmy Kimmel opened the show with a monologue joking about the 2022 Oscars clap incident. It started mildly – “Five Irish actors have been nominated tonight, which means the chances of another fight on stage just got that much higher – but it got more elaborate as the monologue progressed.
“If anyone in this theater commits an act of violence on this show, you get the Oscars for Best Actor and you get to give a 19-minute speech,” Kimmel said near the end of the opening. He also highlighted the Academy’s crisis team, then pointed out the people in the audience he expected to protect him: Michelle Yeoh, Adonis Creed (cut to Michael B. Jordan), The Mandalorian (cut to Pedro Pascal), and ‘ the Fabelman” (cut to Steven Spielberg).
As you may recall, Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Academy Awards last year after Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett-Smith’s hair loss. The fallout was immediate, bizarre, and ongoing in the year-plus since: Smith won the Oscar and gave a tearful acceptance speech. Smith continued to apologize for the next few days and weeks, while Rock remained mostly silent about the incident. The Academy said they would review Smith’s membership, but Smith eventually resigned. A year later, Smith jokes about TikToks and Rock released a comedy special that addresses the incident.
Smith has also been banned from Academy events for a decade following the blow, meaning the actor won’t be handing out the Best Actor Oscar as usual.
On the red carpet ahead of the show, Film Academy president Janet Yang said last year’s response from the Academy was “unsatisfactory,” and that she’s “so excited” to move forward with the show, concluding with : “were prepared.”