The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has met and determined the fate of Will Smith. The superstar actor, who won his first Oscar the same night he made bigger headlines by slapping Chris Rock after the comedian made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, is barred from attending the Academy Awards for 10 years. Smith resigned as a member of the Academy following the controversy. Many speculated that the Academy would strip Smith of his trophy, but here’s why they couldn’t.
It Opens Up A Whole Can Of Weinstein-Smelling Worms
The Academy has never stripped a winner of an award, and while what Will Smith did was indefensible and terrible, there have been worse winners. Harvey Weinstein comes to mind first. Weinstein won an Oscar for producing Shakespeare in Love, which controversially won the Best Picture award over Saving Private Ryan after what has become a legendary Oscar campaign from Weinstein and his company, Miramax.
Weinstein has had a number of his awards rescinded by the organizations that gave them, but the Academy has not rescinded his Oscar, even after the former Hollywood powerbroker went to prison to serve his sentence of 23 years for sexual assault and rape.
Director Roman Polanski, like Weinstein, is also guilty of sex crimes. In 1977, Polanski was arrested and pled guilty to “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor” after he allegedly raped 13-year-old Samantha Gailey. After the plea, the judge in the case indicated he would be disregarding the agreement Polanski and his lawyers agreed to and planned to sentence the director to 50 years in prison. Polanski caught wind of the judge’s intentions and fled to Europe, where he’s remained ever since. As a French citizen, he is protected from being extradited to the US. His case has lingered ever since, and he remains a fugitive.
Almost unbelievably, Polanski actually won an Academy Award more than 20 years after he pled guilty to the heinous charges. He won Best Director in 2003 for The Pianist. So again, while what Smith did was bad, it’s not nearly as bad as Polanski or Weinstein. If the Academy stripped Smith of the award, they would certainly have to strip those two. And there’s more.
John Wayne Attempted To Do What Will Smith Did
In 1973, Marlon Brando was awarded the Oscar for Best Actor for his part in The Godfather. Instead of accepting the award, he sent Native American activist and actress Sacheen Littelfeather in his place. As Littlefeather spoke about the plight of Indians in Hollywood, legendary fake cowboy John Wayne was reported held back from jumping on stage and attacking her. Wayne had won his own Best Actor award for True Grit in 1970. It seems the Academy would need to strip that one away as well if they chose to do so for Smith.
Ultimately, there are winners that are way worse than Smith, and while the Men In Black star deserves the punishment he got, for the Academy to go further would create a huge headache for the organization, one they almost certainly want to avoid. Maybe they shouldn’t, though.