'The Blacklist' star Harry Lennix wants 'playground bully' Will Smith to return his Oscar
Harry Lennix believes that Will Smith's Best Actor Oscar statuette should be returned willingly by him to make atonement for his behavior at this year's ceremony when he assaulted Chris Rock onstage.
Lennix, 57, an actor known for roles in films like Ray and Justice League, wrote in an op-ed for Variety that Will Smith, 53, "needs to come to grips with the gravity of the offense he committed" and "express-mail his golden trophy back to the Academy and publicly state something to the effect of: 'Out of respect for the 94 years of honor conferred upon this award, I do not in good conscience feel worthy of being its custodian.'"
Lennix wrote, "At this point, the only person who can redeem the integrity of the Oscars is Smith himself. Smith's brutality stripped the entire evening of its prestige." The Ray star added, "The stain on the Motion Picture Academy cannot be easily remediated. The only hope for a justifiable grace must involve Smith voluntarily returning his award for best actor."
Will has openly apologized for his "unacceptable and inexcusable" behavior, which he won for in King Richard. He left the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as well. The Academy's board of governors voted to bar him from attending the Oscars event for the next ten years, both in person and online. "I accept and respect the Academy's decision," Will responded.
"It's a toothless penalty that lays bare the shallowness of Hollywood morals," Lennix wrote, describing the decade-long ban as "little more than an extended time out for a playground bully."
Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson wrote in a letter Friday, April 8, "The 94th Oscars were meant to be a celebration of the many individuals in our community who did incredible work this past year; however, those moments were overshadowed by the unacceptable and harmful behavior we saw Mr. Smith exhibit on stage."
They added, "During our telecast, we did not adequately address the situation in the room. For this, we are sorry. This was an opportunity for us to set an example for our guests, viewers and our Academy family around the world, and we fell short — unprepared for the unprecedented."
They concluded, "We want to express our deep gratitude to Mr. Rock for maintaining his composure under extraordinary circumstances. We also want to thank our hosts, nominees, presenters and winners for their poise and grace during our telecast.This action we are taking today in response to Will Smith's behavior is a step toward a larger goal of protecting the safety of our performers and guests, and restoring trust in the Academy. We also hope this can begin a time of healing and restoration for all involved and impacted."
Will said in a statement announcing his resignation, "My actions at the 94th Academy Awards presentation were shocking, painful, and inexcusable. The list of those I have hurt is long and includes Chris, his family, many of my dear friends and loved ones, all those in attendance, and global audiences at home. I betrayed the trust of the Academy."
"I deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work. I am heartbroken. I want to put the focus back on those who deserve attention for their achievements and allow the Academy to get back to the incredible work it does to support creativity and artistry in film," Will added.
He concluded, "So, I am resigning from membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and will accept any further consequences the Board deems appropriate. Change takes time and I am committed to doing the work to ensure that I never again allow violence to overtake reason."