Oscars Producer Reveals Chris Rock's Reaction to Will Smith Smack: 'I Just Got Punched by Muhammad Ali'

Will Packer said on Friday's episode of Good Morning America that Chris Rock was immediately in "joke mode" after Will Smith struck him during the 2022 Oscars

Will Packer, the producer behind the 2022 Oscars ceremony, is sharing more details surrounding the moments after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock during Sunday's telecast.

On Friday's episode of Good Morning America, Packer explained that a stunned Rock was still in "joke mode" backstage after Smith struck him, even calling the actor Muhammad Ali, referring to Smith's portrayal of the boxing legend in the 2001 film Ali, which earned Smith his first Best Actor nomination.

"I said: 'Did he really hit you?'" Packer said. "And [Rock] looked at me and he goes: 'I just took a punch from Muhammad Ali.' It's exactly what he said, as only Chris can, you know. He was immediately in joke mode, but you could tell that he was very much still in shock."

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Parker said he initially thought the smack was part of a bit between Rock and Smith as the comedian was "freestyling" his jokes rather than following what was written on the teleprompter.

"He didn't tell one of the planned jokes. He was just immediately freestyling," the producer said. "I thought it was a bit like everyone else. I wasn't concerned at all. As [Smith] is walking, I figured okay... something funny is gonna happen because that's the nature of Chris and that's the nature of Will."

William Packer
Mike Coppola/Getty

"Once I saw Will yelling at the stage with such vitriol, my heart dropped. And Chris was keeping his head while everybody else was losing theirs," Packer added, noting that Rock told him he was "fine" after the hit and wanted to "just get past this."

chris rock and will smith
Chris Rock; Will Smith. Getty (2)

Packer also told GMA's T.J. Holmes that he did not speak directly with Smith, 53, at the ceremony — though the King Richard star was asked to leave, according to the Academy.

After the incident, however, Packer and Rock, 57, did speak with officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, and authorities explained they could arrest Smith if the comedian wanted to press charges.

"They were saying, 'This is battery' — the word they used in that moment. They said, 'We will go get him. We are prepared to get him right now, you can press charges. We can arrest him.' They were laying out the options," Packer said.

"And as they were talking, Chris was being very dismissive of those options. He was like, 'No, I'm fine.' ... Even to the point where I said, 'Rock, let them finish,' " Packer continued. "The LAPD officers finished laying out what his options were, and they said, 'Would you like us to take any action?' And [Chris] said, 'No.' "

Packer explained that Smith was going to be forcibly removed from the show right before the presentation of the Best Actor award but he "immediately" advocated to Academy leadership that Rock said Smith should stay.

"I said, 'Rock had made it clear that he does not want to make a bad situation worse.' His tone was not retaliatory. His tone was not aggressive or angry," Packer continued. "So I was advocating what Rock wanted in that time, which was not to physically remove Will Smith."

The conflict arose after Rock — on the Academy Awards stage to present the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature — made a joke about Smith's wife Jada Pinkett Smith's shaved head, which she recently revealed is a result of her years-long struggle with alopecia. "Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2, can't wait to see ya," Rock joked.

Smith then walked onto stage and smacked Rock in the face, leaving the audience and live viewers around the world stunned. "Oh wow," said a seemingly taken-aback Rock as Smith made his way back to his seat. "Will Smith just smacked the s— out of me."

RELATED VIDEO: How Will Smith Smacking Chris Rock at the Oscars — and the Aftermath — Unfolded

"Keep my wife's name out your f—ing mouth!" Smith yelled up to the stage at Rock, twice, after taking his seat again.

The King Richard star, who later that night won Best Actor for his performance in the movie, apologized to the Academy in his acceptance speech. He omitted Rock from the speech, but made a public apology to the comedian via social media the next day. "I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be," Smith wrote.

After an initial statement, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that they "condemn" Smith's actions and have "officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law."

On Thursday, an industry source revealed to PEOPLE that Smith met with the Academy via Zoom in the days since the event, where he again apologized for his behavior.

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Chris Rock and Will Smith at the Oscars on March 27, 2022. Robyn Beck/getty

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"Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated," a statement from the Academy, issued Wednesday, read. "While we would like to clarify that Mr. Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognize we could have handled the situation differently."

"The Board of Governors today initiated disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith for violations of the Academy's Standards of Conduct, including inappropriate physical contact, abusive or threatening behavior, and compromising the integrity of the Academy," it continued.

"Consistent with the Academy's Standards of Conduct, as well as California law, Mr. Smith is being provided at least 15 days' notice of a vote regarding his violations and sanctions, and the opportunity to be heard beforehand by means of a written response."

At the next board meeting, set to take place on April 18, the Academy said they "may take any disciplinary action, which may include suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions permitted by the Bylaws and Standards of Conduct."

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