(Reuters) – Los Angeles police were ready to arrest actor Will Smith at the Academy Awards on Sunday for slapping presenter Chris Rock, the producer of the Hollywood ceremony said in an interview broadcast on Friday.
The authorities did not take any action because Rock declined to press charges, producer Will Packer said, echoing what a police spokesperson said on Sunday.
“They were saying, you know, this is battery, was a word they used in that moment,” Packer said in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“They said, we will go get him. We are prepared. We’re prepared to get him right now,” Packer added.
During the live Oscars telecast, Smith strode onstage after Rock made a joke about the appearance of Smith’s wife then smacked the comedian’s face.
“It was like somebody poured concrete in that room,” Packer recalled. “It was this feeling of – what just happened? Is this real?”
Less than an hour later, Smith gave a tearful speech as he accepted the best actor trophy for his role in “King Richard.”
As Smith walked onstage to receive the award, Packer said some audience members gave a standing ovation to offer the actor support after what had just happened.
“All these people saw their friend at his absolute worst moment and were hoping that they could encourage him and lift him up, and that he would somehow try to make it better,” he said.
Behind the scenes, police were discussing options with Rock, Packer said.
Rock “was being very dismissive of those options. He was like, ‘No, no, no, I’m fine.’ And even to the point where I said, ‘Rock, let them finish,'” Packer added.
Packer said he communicated to Academy leadership that Rock didn’t want to have Smith removed.
“I said Rock has made it clear that he does not want to make a bad situation worse,” Packer said.
Representatives for Rock did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Smith apologized to Rock, producers and viewers in a statement on Monday, saying he had “reacted emotionally.”
Rock’s joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, made a reference to the 1997 film “G.I. Jane” for which actress Demi Moore shaved her head. It was unclear whether Rock was aware that Jada Pinkett Smith has a medical condition that causes hair loss.
A police spokesman on Sunday said that the individual involved in the incident had declined to press charges but did not provide details about the interactions at the awards show.
Rock’s decision to continue presenting an award after being hit saved the show, Packer said.
“Because Chris handled the moment with such grace and aplomb, it allowed the show to continue,” Packer said. “He certainly saved what was left of it at that point.”
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Katharine Jackson; Editing by Mark Porter)