By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Organizers of Sunday’s 95th Academy Awards are preparing for the unexpected after Will Smith’s infamous slap of Chris Rock convulsed Hollywood’s biggest awards ceremony last year.
For the first time, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has created a crisis team to respond to any mishaps.
“It is our hope that we will be prepared for anything,” Academy Chief Executive Bill Kramer told Time magazine in a recent interview. “Because of last year, we’ve opened our minds to the many things that can happen at the Oscars.”
The film Academy was heavily criticized for allowing Smith to remain in the audience, and accept the best actor trophy, after attacking Rock on stage over a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
The organization has not disclosed details about the membership of the crisis team or how it may react to anything out of the ordinary. Smith will not be in attendance. He was banned from attending the event for 10 years.
At a February luncheon for nominees, Academy President Janet Yang said the group learned that it must act “swiftly, compassionately and decisively” in times of crisis, and “you should and can expect no less from us going forward.”
Security is tight at the Dolby Theatre where the ceremony is held. Law enforcement closes off several blocks around the theater and the red carpet.
Show producers Glenn Weiss and Ricky Kirshner said they hope to keep the spotlight this time on the year’s nominated movies and the people who brought them to life.
“I don’t think anybody is particularly looking to harp too much on what’s happened in the past,” Weiss said.
The show will be broadcast on Walt Disney Co’s ABC network.
In a departure from recent years when the Academy nominated many little-seen films, the field of best picture contenders features many of the biggest box-office hits of 2022. They include “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Elvis” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
“We’re there to entertain, and to highlight the great movies this year, many of which people have seen, which is great for us,” Kirshner said.
Like other awards shows, the Oscars have lost viewers in recent years, particularly among younger people who are glued to social media. Weiss said the team was planning to pepper the show with moments that they hope would spread on Twitter and TikTok.
Pop superstar Rihanna will sing her nominated song “Lift Me Up” from “Wakanda Forever.” Stephanie Hsu, David Byrne and the band Son Lux will perform “This is a Life” from “Everything Everywhere.”
“Natuu Natuu” singers Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava also will appear with their song from Indian action film “RRR.”
Comedian Jimmy Kimmel, who helped navigate the 2017 mix-up when the wrong best-picture winner was announced, will be back to host this year’s ceremony.
A promo for the show described Kimmel as “unflappable and unslappable.”
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Mary Milliken and Jonathan Oatis)