Jimmy Kimmel addressed the elephant in the room right off the bat at the 2023 Oscars.
The late-night talk show host poked fun at the now-infamous moment Will Smith slapped Chris Rock during last year’s Academy Awards in his opening monologue Sunday.
“We know this is a special night for you. We want you to have fun. We want you to feel safe … and, most importantly, we want me to feel safe,” Kimmel, 55, told the star-studded audience.
“So, we have strict policies in place: If anyone in this theater commits an act of violence at any point in this show, you will be awarded the Oscar for Best Actor and permitted to give a 19-minute-long speech,” he continued, referencing the Academy’s controversial decision not to kick Smith out of the auditorium in the wake of his actions — and then honor him for “King Richard” moments after the incident.
“If anything unpredictable or violent happens during this ceremony, just do what you did last year — nothing,” the “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” host quipped. “Sit there and do absolutely nothing. Maybe even give the assailant a hug.”
He continued, “And if any of you get mad at a joke and you decide you want to come up here and get jiggy with it, it’s not going to be easy. There are a few of my friends you’re going to have to get through first.”
Kimmel went on to call out his impressive backup, including Michael B. Jordan, “The “Mandalorian” star Pedro Pascal and “Spider-Man” actor Andrew Garfield.
Smith, 54, came under fire at the 2022 Oscars for storming the stage and slapping Rock, 58, over a joke that his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who has alopecia, should be cast in “G.I. Jane 2.”
“Will did call Chris last year after the Oscars, but Chris didn’t pick up. And they haven’t spoken since,” a source close to both actors claimed.
The insider went on to say Rock was open to a reconciliation until Smith made his public apologies, which the “Saturday Night Live” alum believes “were all about saving [Smith’s] reputation” rather than actually mending their relationship.
“Will has not apologized to Chris Rock in person — and Chris isn’t expecting it.”
Following the recent release of Rock’s Netflix special “Selective Outrage” — in which he joked about watching Smith’s slavery movie “Emancipation” just to “see him get whooped” — the insider said it was even less likely the pair will ever make up.
While the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” alum wasn’t in attendance at this year’s show — and won’t be for the next decade due to a post-slap ban — the Academy spent the last 12 months putting together a game plan in case another easily offended audience member decides to take matters into their own hands this year.
Last month, CEO Bill Kramer revealed the organization set up a “crisis team” to handle any unforeseen events during the live ceremony.
“We have a whole crisis team, something we’ve never had before, and many plans in place,” Kramer told Time. “We’ve run many scenarios. So it is our hope that we will be prepared for anything that we may not anticipate right now but that we’re planning for just in case it does happen.”
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