Will Smith: actor resigns from the Academy after slap, and Netflix cancels planned movie ‘Fast and Loose’

Will Smith has resigned from the Academy - here’s what that means for his career, and some context on previous Academy resignations and expulsions

Will Smith has resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences – the Oscars’ awarding body – after slapping Chris Rock during last Sunday’s Oscars telecast.

Smith, who was facing potential suspension or expulsion from the Academy in light of his actions, offered another apology to Rock in his new statement, and said he would accept any other consequences the Academy deemed appropriate. Since then, a number of studios have pulled away from Will Smith, with Netflix putting upcoming action movie Fast and Loose on the backburner and development stalling on Bad Boys 4.

Now the actor has been barred from Academy events, including the annual Oscars gala, for at least 10 years.

Here’s everything you need to know about Will Smith’s resignation from the Academy and what that means going forward.

What did Will Smith say when he resigned from the Academy?

Smith described his actions at the 94th Academy Awards as “shocking, painful, and inexcusable”, saying that he betrayed the trust of the organisation and apologising for overshadowing celebration of the other winners.

“The list of those I have hurt is long and includes Chris, his family, many of my dear friends and loved ones, all those in attendance, and global audiences at home,” Smith said.

His full statement, obtained by industry magazine The Hollywood Reporter, reads as follows.

“I have directly responded to the Academy’s disciplinary hearing notice, and I will fully accept any and all consequences for my conduct. My actions at the 94th Academy Awards presentation were shocking, painful, and inexcusable. The list of those I have hurt is long and includes Chris, his family, many of my dear friends and loved ones, all those in attendance, and global audiences at home.”

“I betrayed the trust of the Academy. I deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work. I am heartbroken. I want to put the focus back on those who deserve attention for their achievements and allow the Academy to get back to the incredible work it does to support creativity and artistry in film.”

“So, I am resigning from membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and will accept any further consequences the Board deems appropriate.”

“Change takes time and I am committed to doing the work to ensure that I never again allow violence to overtake reason.”

How did the Academy respond to Smith’s resignation?

The Academy has accepted Smith’s resignation, but noted it will continue with disciplinary procedures regardless.

“We have received and accepted Mr. Will Smith’s immediate resignation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,” Academy president David Rubin said in a statement. “We will continue to move forward with our disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Smith for violations of the Academy’s Standards of Conduct, in advance of our next scheduled board meeting on April 18.”

Was Will Smith going to be expelled anyway?

The Academy’s Board of Governors – which includes, amongst others, director Steven Spielberg and actor Laura Dern – had an emergency meeting to discuss consequences for Smith shortly after the Oscars telecast.

Following that meeting, the Academy announced that Smith had violated the group’s code of conduct and faced “suspension, expulsion, or other sanctions.”

On 8 April, the Academy confirmed that Will Smith had been banned from any events hosted by the organisation, including the Oscar gala, for the next decade.

Will the Academy take back Will Smith’s Oscar?

No, they won’t. Whoopi Goldberg – another Governor, though not speaking in an official capacity – recently commented “we’re not going to take that Oscar from him. There will be consequences I’m sure, but I don’t think that’s what they’re going to do.”

No Oscar-winner has ever had their award rescinded before.

What does this mean for Will Smith’s career going forward?

In terms of material consequences, the only outcome is that Will Smith won’t be able to vote on future Oscar winners. He’s also unlikely to be asked to present an Oscar – it’s tradition for the previous year’s Best Actor winner to present the award to the next year’s Best Actress, as Anthony Hopkins did to Jessica Chastain this year.

Smith is still eligible to be nominated for an Oscar (you don’t need to be an Academy member to receive a nomination), and may plausibly one day be invited to rejoin the Academy, though commentators believe that to be unlikely.

It is possible that this may affect the type of roles Smith is offered. Studios hoping that their film will be an Oscar-winner may not offer roles to Smith – while he can still be nominated, there may be a perception that his presence will make such recognition unlikely, meaning prestige biopics might be less likely to offer him those types of roles.

What’s happening with Netflix movie Fast and Loose? What’s happening with Bad Boys 4?

Netflix has put Fast and Loose, a planned action movie starring Will Smith, on the backburner. The film’s director David Leitch departed the project for unrelated reasons prior to the slap, which saw Netflix put out an urgent call for a new director - but, according to industry magazine The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix has since removed Fast and Loose from active development, newly wary about working with Smith.

It’s also been reported by THR that Bad Boys 4 - the latest sequel to one of Smith’s most famous action movies - has been put on hold as Sony considers their options. Smith received 40 pages of script shortly before the Oscars incident.

How does Academy membership work?

Membership of the Academy is by invitation only – granted either by earning an Oscar nomination, or by being sponsored by two other Academy members.

The Academy is divided into 17 branches, representing different disciplines of film production: actors, directors, sound engineers, etc. Each branch votes on the nominees for their own discipline – actors vote on which actors are nominated, screenwriters vote on which scripts are nominated, etc – and every member votes on the eventual winner.

Will Smith joined the Academy (an invitation-only group) in 2002, when he was nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of boxer Mohammed Ali in the biopic Ali. Smith was nominated for Best Actor a second time in 2007, for his role in the biopic The Pursuit of Happyness.

Has anyone been expelled or resigned from the Academy before?

Five people have been publicly expelled from the Academy prior to this. Four of them – producer Harvey Weinstein, comedian Bill Cosby, director Roman Polanski, and cinematographer Adam Kimmel – were expelled for sexual assault charges.

The first person to be expelled, the actor Carmine Caridi (best known for a role in The Godfather trilogy), was expelled from the Academy in 2004 on copyright infringement charges. A number of other Academy members have been expelled for selling their Oscars, though their names have not been revealed publicly.

Smith is the third person to resign from the Academy. Sound engineer Tom Fleischman and production sound mixer Peter Kurland both resigned in March 2022, objecting to the decision to remove the Best Sound award from the Oscars telecast.