During his Sunday night performance at the Arizona Financial Theatre in downtown Phoenix, comedian Chris Rock reportedly said that he had turned down the opportunity to host the 2023 Academy Awards.
The comedian hosted the awards show twice, in 2005 and 2016, according to a report from the Arizona Republic. After the infamous incident at the 2022 ceremony, when Will Smith slapped Rock onstage after Rock made jokes about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, Rock claimed the Academy asked him to return to host the ceremony for a third time. Less than an hour before Smith was scheduled to take the award for best actor for his work in King Richard, the incident occurred as Rock prepared to deliver the medal for best documentary feature.
In reference to the murder trial of O.J. Simpson, whose ex-slaying wife’s started with her leaving a pair of eyeglasses at an Italian restaurant, Rock reportedly linked taking the hosting role to going back to the scene of a crime during his program. As Nicole Brown Simpson, Rock compared asking her to return to the Oscars to asking her “to go back to the restaurant.”
The comedian’s sold-out audience was anxious to hear his perspective on the incident, according to the Arizona Republic, with one fan reportedly yelling, “Talk about it!” Smith’s portrayal of boxer Muhammed Ali in the 2001 drama Ali, which won Smith his first Oscar nomination, was brought up by Rock in his subsequent remarks.
“He’s bigger than me,” Rock said. “The state of Nevada would not sanction a fight between me and Will Smith.”
In response to Rock’s comments, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chose not to respond.
A week after Smith publicly announced his resignation from the Academy, the Academy’s board of governors issued a 10-year ban on Smith attending the Oscars or any other Academy-sponsored events in April.
The Academy is “committed to having a host on the show this year,” according to Bill Kramer, the recently appointed CEO of the organization, and we’re “already looking at some key partners on that,” he said earlier this month. He also made it clear that at the subsequent ceremony, the slap would not be the subject of conversation or jokes.“We want to move forward and to have an Oscars that celebrates cinema. That’s our focus right now,” he said.