Breaking tradition, Will Smith won’t present at the Oscars this year. So... now what?
Because the Academy has banned him from attending the Oscars for 10 years, Will Smith will not be able to continue the tradition of the reigning lead actor winner presenting the award for lead actress during this year’s ceremony.
After slapping presenter Chris Rock onstage during last year’s show, Smith won lead actor for his powerful performance in “King Richard.” If not for the ban, Smith would have likely been invited to present the award for lead actress, while reigning lead actress winner Jessica Chastain would be on hand to present lead actor; reigning supporting actor winner Troy Kotsur would be tapped to present supporting actress; and reigning supporting actress winner Ariana DeBose would be expected to present supporting actor.
But now the Academy’s controversial punishment for The Slap — Smith was banned from the Oscar ceremony for a decade — has raised an important question: Who will unveil the 2023 lead actress winner on Sunday evening?
After two bruising years, Oscar producers hope to bring the shine back to the ceremony. Insiders say structural changes will have to come first.
When asked about the presenting dilemma Wednesday at a news conference, Oscars co-producer Ricky Kirshner wouldn’t name names, but offered some insight into internal discussions surrounding this year’s lineup.
“I came in and everyone says, ‘This is what we used to do.’ And there is no more, ‘This is what we used to do,’” Kirshner said.
“We rethought the show and we put presenters together in ways that make sense for the category and you’ll see on Sunday night.”
The film academy delivers its punishment for the Oscars slap, blocking Will Smith from attending but leaving him eligible to be nominated again.
The practice of the reigning class of acting winners presenting awards to their successors didn’t begin to take hold until the mid-1980s. It’s worth noting that the reigning acting champions being unable or unwilling to present the following year is an unusual but not unprecedented scenario.
In 2018, for example, Oscar-winning “Manchester By the Sea” actor Casey Affleck declined to attend the Academy Awards after two women sued him for sexual assault. That year, two former lead actress winners — Jennifer Lawrence and Jodie Foster — presented the category while commending their colleagues’ “personal strength forged in the challenges they’ve faced as women.” (Frances McDormand won the award for her role in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”)
Alternative arrangements were also made after “The Dark Knight” star Heath Ledger died of an accidental overdose at age 28 in January 2008 and won the prize for supporting actor in February 2009. Former supporting actor winner Robin Williams presented the award for supporting actress in 2010 to Mo’Nique for her performance in “Precious.”
Citing other movie obligations, Oscars producers confirm Lady Gaga will be the only song nominee this year who won’t perform at Sunday’s ceremony.
In those cases, when the previous acting winner was absent, the presenting duty fell to another former acting winner — or two — instead.
Excluding last year’s acting winners, that criteria applies to just three of this year’s confirmed presenters: Halle Berry won lead actress for “Monster’s Ball” in 2002; Nicole Kidman won lead actress for “The Hours” in 2003; and Jennifer Connelly won supporting actress for “A Beautiful Mind” in 2002.
Based on the aforementioned instances, either Berry, Kidman or both would be likeliest to present the Oscar for lead actress at the 95th Academy Awards.
However, if Kirshner really meant it when he said, “there is no more, ‘This is what we used to do,’” then anyone could be eligible for the job.
Rounding out this year’s presenters are Pedro Pascal, Kate Hudson, Harrison Ford, Paul Dano, Cara Delevingne, Mindy Kaling, Eva Longoria, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Andie MacDowell, Elizabeth Olsen, John Travolta, Dwayne Johnson, Jonathan Majors, Andrew Garfield, Florence Pugh, Halle Bailey, Antonio Banderas, Elizabeth Banks, John Cho, Hugh Grant, Danai Gurira, Salma Hayek Pinault, Sigourney Weaver, Riz Ahmed, Emily Blunt, Glenn Close, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael B. Jordan, Melissa McCarthy, Janelle Monáe, Deepika Padukone, Questlove, Zoe Saldaña and Donnie Yen.
Chris Rock told an audience Sunday that he turned down hosting next year’s Oscars after Will Smith struck him onstage at this year’s ceremony.
Naturally, Twitter has also weighed in on the discourse surrounding this year’s presenting quandary.
One person suggested that Berry, the first Black woman to win the Oscar for lead actress, should present the honor — especially if frontrunner Michelle Yeoh of “Everything Everywhere All At Once” makes history as the first Asian woman to win the award. Another mused that Chastain should present the awards for both lead actor and lead actress. Someone else argued that the producers should just let Yeoh “present it to herself.”
And of course, multiple people offered up Rock — who said in August that he turned down an opportunity to host this year’s show and joked that getting back on the Oscars stage would be like returning to the scene of a crime. But hey, you never know.
Times staff writer Josh Rottenberg contributed to this report.
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