Chris Rock defused tension backstage after being slapped by Will Smith at the Oscars, joked ‘I just took a punch from Muhammad Ali’

Will Packer, the producer of the 94th Academy Awards, described his conversation with Chris Rock moments after the comedian was slapped by Will Smith at the Oscars.

Producer of the 94th Academy Awards, Will Packer, has opened up about the incident between Will Smith and Chris Rock that sent shockwaves in the entertainment industry. During the ceremony, Smith reacted to a joke made by Rock about the former’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith, and went on to smack him across the face.
While many initially thought the incident was staged, Smith’s expletive-laden words moments later put an end to any possibility that it was scripted. Smith went on to win the Best Actor trophy later in the ceremony. Now, in an interview with Good Morning America, Will Packer has said that Rock had several planned jokes that were on the teleprompter, but he chose not to tell any of them and instead improvised. “I knew he had an amazing lineup of jokes that we had him in the prompter. He didn’t tell one of the planned jokes, but you can’t make it up. He was just immediately freestyling. But I tell you, if there’s anybody that you don’t worry about going out in front of a live audience and riffing off the cuff, it’s Chris Rock. Nobody’s better.”
He added that when he saw Smith approaching the stage, he thought it was going to be a funny moment, and even after Smith had hit Rock, he was not concerned and assumed it was a comedy bit. But his “heart dropped” when he saw Smith yelling from the audience at Rock to keep his “wife’s name out of (his)  f***ing mouth!”
Packer recalled, “I just remember thinking, ‘Oh no, oh no. Not like this’. Chris was keeping his head when everyone else was losing theirs. My heart was just in my stomach because of everything about it and what it represented and what it looked like and who was involved. All of that. I’ve never felt so immediately devastated like I did in that moment.”
Packer rushed backstage, where he met Rock and asked him what had happened and told him that they’d do what he wanted. “I said: ‘Did he really hit you?’ And he 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.” The Los Angeles Police Department arrived, and offered to arrest Smith, but reportedly Rock didn’t want to press charges.
The reason for Smith’s assault was a joke Rock had cracked moments before about the former’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith. In the joke, Rock said while referring to Jada, “G.I. Jane 2. Can’t wait to see it.” 1997’s G.I. Jane, a war drama, had Demi Moore playing the role of the (fictional) first female Navy Seal who shaved her head. The joke was meant to make fun of Jada’s lack of hair due to a condition called alopecia.
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In the wake of the incident, the Academy has launched disciplinary proceedings against Smith, who announced his resignation from the Academy membership.