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Chris Rock was 'in shock,' joked he was hit by Muhammad Ali after Will Smith slap, Oscars producer says

"His tone was not retaliatory, it was not angry," show producer Will Packer said to "Good Morning America" about the Oscars stage confrontation.
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Chris Rock appeared to be in shock and joked, "I just took a punch from Muhammad Ali," after Will Smith slapped him on the Oscars stage Sunday, the lead producer of the awards ceremony said.

Show producer Will Packer revealed what happened behind the scenes in the immediate aftermath of the shocking slap, telling ABC News' "Good Morning America" host T.J. Holmes in an interview that aired Friday, Rock was still in "joke mode" but was reeling from the confrontation.

“I said, ‘Did he really hit you?’ and he looked at me and goes, ‘Yeah! I just took a punch from Muhammad Ali.’ He was immediately in joke mode but you could tell that he was very much still in shock,” Packer said.

The producer initially thought the confrontation on stage "was a bit."

“I wasn’t concerned at all,” he said. “I figured okay, you know, he’s going to say something, come at him, something funny is going to happen because that’s the nature of Chris, that’s the nature of Will so let’s see what happens.”

“Once I saw Will yelling at the stage with such vitriol, my heart dropped and I remember thinking ‘Oh no, oh no, not like this’ and Chris was keeping his head when everybody else was losing theirs,” Packer added.

When the Los Angeles Police Department came, they laid out Rock’s rights, called the incident battery and laid out options to press charges and arrest Smith.

“As they were talking, Chris was — he was being very dismissive of those options. He was like ‘No I’m fine. He was like ‘No, no, no,’ even to the point where, I said, 'Rock let them finish.' They said, ‘Would you like us to take any action?’ and he said ‘No,'" Packer recalled.

Right before the Best Actor award was presented, Packer said he learned that the Academy was trying to remove Smith.

“I immediately went to the Academy leadership that was on site and I said, 'Chris Rock doesn’t want that. Rock has made it clear that he doesn’t want to make a bad situation worse,'" Packer said. "That was Chris’ energy. His tone was not retaliatory, it was not angry."

Packer said the incident "sucked the life out of that room and it never came back."

He credited Rock for his composure saying, "Because Chris handled the moment with such grace and aplomb, it allowed the show to continue. If he had handled that differently in that moment, it could have gone so many different ways."

Packer noted he didn’t have any conversation with Smith that night. The producer said Smith reached out to him the following morning and apologized, expressing embarrassment for the incident. 

Smith walked onstage and slapped Rock after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

Rock said he was looking forward to seeing Pinkett Smith in “G.I. Jane 2.”

In 2018, Pinkett Smith revealed that she had been diagnosed with alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss. The film “G.I. Jane” stars Demi Moore as a woman who shaves her head during military service.

Smith apologized to Rock on Instagram on Monday.

Rock told a sold-out crowd in Boston on Wednesday that he was “still kind of processing what happened,” adding that he would discuss the incident further at some point but that he wasn’t ready just yet.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Wednesday that Smith had been asked to leave Sunday night’s ceremony but refused to do so.