Academy’s new ‘crisis team’ ‘will be prepared for anything’ at this year’s Oscars

A man wearing formalwear slaps another man wearing formalwear onstage
Will Smith slaps Chris Rock onstage during the show at the 94th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood on March 27, 2022.
(Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times)

The Oscars are ready for the next surprise outburst.

Bill Kramer, the chief executive of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, announced the addition of a “crisis team” to help manage the response to any unexpected incidents during the awards show.

“We have a whole crisis team, something we’ve never had before, and many plans in place,” Kramer told Time in an interview published Tuesday. “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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Since Will Smith stepped onstage and hit Chris Rock after Rock made a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith — Kramer said the academy has since “opened our minds to the many things that can happen at the Oscars.”


“But these crisis plans — the crisis communication teams and structures we have in place — allow us to say this is the group that we have to gather very quickly,” Kramer said. “This is how we all come together. This is the spokesperson. This will be the statement. And obviously depending on the specifics of the crisis, and let’s hope something doesn’t happen and we never have to use these, but we already have frameworks in place that we can modify.”

Kramer credited the new team for the academy’s ability to address concerns around the surprise nomination of Andrea Riseborough. The “To Leslie” actor rode a brief, powerful wave of A-list celebrities endorsing her performance, leading some to question whether any awards campaign rules were broken. One week after the nominations were released, the academy announced that Riseborough’s nomination will stand and the academy will work to refine and clarify the rules around awards campaigning.

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“You know, that happened on a Tuesday, and six days later we were able to issue our formal statement from the board that really carved out a plan for us,” Kramer said. “So you never know exactly what’s going to happen. But you have to have the teams and frameworks in place and the processes in place, to come together to figure things out quickly.”

Last week during the annual nominees luncheon at the Beverly Hilton, Academy President Janet Yang addressed lingering concerns about the Smith incident and seemingly previewed the academy’s addition of the crisis team.

“What happened onstage was wholly unacceptable, and the response from our organization was inadequate,” Yang told luncheon guests. “We learned from this that the academy must be fully transparent and accountable in our actions. And particularly in times of crisis, we must act swiftly, compassionately and decisively for ourselves and for our industry. You should and can expect no less from us going forward.”

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The academy said it also will be leaning on the veteran savvy of a familiar face, with Jimmy Kimmel returning to host the show for the third time.


“That’s why you want someone like Jimmy onstage who is used to dealing with live TV: Things don’t always go as planned,” Kramer said in the Time interview. “So you have a host in place who can really pivot and manage those moments.”

Yet even with the team and a reliable host in place, Kramer acknowledged that the unpredictability of live shows still leaves some things up in the air.

“And again, we’ve run some great scenarios, but ... the specifics may change, and we’ll see what happens,” he said.

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Times staff writer Josh Rottenberg contributed to this report.