Jimmy Kimmel’s wife, Molly McNearney, says her husband took it easy on Will Smith at the 95th Academy Awards on Sunday.
Kimmel hosted Hollywood’s biggest night at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, one year after Smith slapped Chris Rock onstage in response to Rock making a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
McNearney, an executive producer for this year's Oscars, tells Variety why her husband didn’t go "harder" on Smith.
"We didn't want to make this year all about last year," McNearney explains. "I cannot tell you how many Will Smith jokes we had that then we got rid of. We think that only the best for that room made it. 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."
Still, they didn't want to ignore the incident altogether. "We really liked the idea of making fun of the reaction to it last year," says McNearney. "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 joked during his opening monologue on Sunday night, "We know this is a special night for you. We want you to have fun. We want you to feel safe. And most importantly, we want me to feel safe. So we have strict policies in place. If anyone in this theater commits an act of violence at any point during the show, you will be awarded the Oscar for Best Actor and permitted to give a 19-minute-long speech."
"But seriously, the Academy has a crisis team in place," he added. "If anything unpredictable or violent happens during the ceremony, just do what you did last year -- Nothing. Sit there, and do absolutely nothing."
Ahead of Sunday's big show, Kimmel spoke to The Hollywood Reporter, and revealed his plan if history were to repeat itself with another headline-grabbing slap at the Oscars.
"You mean, if somebody comes up on the stage and slaps me?" Kimmel questioned, before joking, "Well, I size them up, and, if I'm bigger than they are, I beat the s**t out of them on television. And if it's The Rock, I run."
Smith did end up winning Best Actor in 2022 for his role in King Richard, but the Academy later announced that he would be banned from attending the Oscars for 10 years.
While the ceremony was taking place in L.A. this year, Smith was spotted driving a car around 4 p.m. PT in San Dimas, California, not too far away from the event.
Earlier this month, Rock addressed being slapped by Smith at the 94th Academy Awards ceremony during his live Netflix special, Selective Outrage, at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre.
The comedian's special wasted no time diving into his titular subject matter, railing against woke culture and modern sensitivities, accusing hypocrites of "typing out woke-a** tweets on a phone made by child slaves."
"If everybody claims to be a victim, when the real victims need help, ain't nobody gonna be there to help them," Rock declared. "Right now, we live in a world where the emergency room is filled with motherf**kers with paper cuts."