Jimmy Kimmel was planning on calling out Will Smith over his 2022 Oscars slap even “harder.”
The 2023 Academy Awards host apparently scrapped multiple Smith jokes throughout the ceremony, according to executive producer Molly McNearney.
“We didn’t want to make this year all about last year,” McNearney told Variety. “I cannot tell you how many Will Smith jokes we had that [we] then we got rid of. We think that only the best for that room made it.”
She added, “There were certainly some that went harder, but we didn’t think that was our place to do that. That should be Chris Rock, not us.”
The “Jimmy Kimmel Live” EP continued, “We really liked the idea of making fun of the reaction to it last year. I think we’re all still in a bit of shock of how that went down and how after watching that violence everyone had to then sit through an acceptance speech.”
Kimmel’s opening monologue included light riffing on the lack of reaction to Smith slapping presenter Chris Rock onstage last year. The late night host and three-time Oscars MC noted that a “crisis team” was in place, but in case things do go sideways, he joked, “Just do what you did last year – nothing. Sit there and do absolutely nothing. Maybe give the assailant a hug.”
Kimmel added that if “anyone tries anything,” he’s protected by Michael B. Jordan, Michelle Yeoh, Pedro Pascal, Andrew Garfield, Steven Spielberg, and more celebrities.
McNearney revealed of the bit, “I went up to Michelle, Michael, Pedro, Andrew, Steven Spielberg, and we told them minutes before the show started, ‘You’re going to be on camera, Jimmy’s going to refer to you as part of his security team. If you could just show some kind of physical support or give him a fist bump.’ They were all game and they were very supportive.”
Garfield was asked to do a “Spider-Man” web sling but, “he made his own choice, which I think was even better,” McNearney noted. Garfield’s subversive “eh?” face and slight shrug went viral.
And jokes about the infamous Oscars slap weren’t the only quips cut from the live ceremony: McNearney explained that “you do have to cut jokes on movies that you don’t think the home audience has seen,” citing more “TÁR” and “To Leslie” references that ultimately were cut out.
“Thankfully, we had a ‘Top Gun’/ ‘Avatar’ year with the blockbuster movies,” she continued. “It’s really hard because jokes that would do really well with industry people, people at home don’t know what you’re talking about. You’ve got to try to please both audiences at the same time, which is a balancing act for sure.”
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