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Will Smith Oscar crisis handled by inner circle fighting to save the actor’s brand

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Will Smith may still be reeling from the fallout of his infamous smacking of comedian Chris Rock on stage at the 94th Academy Awards after more than a week of public humiliation and multiple about-face moments.Despite the onslaught of criticism and global infatuation of the dust-up, the showbiz superstar has a cast of stout supporters in his corner, many of whom have gone to bat behind the scenes for the “Fresh Prince”-turned-“King Richard” actor.On Friday, Smith’s crisis team meticulously dropped the earth-shattering news that the “Concussion” performer had resigned from the esteemed Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in an emotional memorandum he described as “heartbreaking.” The timing of when the release went public proved pivotal in taking the heat off Smith and mitigating the amount of coverage Smith’s resignation would garner at a fast and furious rate of publication.’FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR’ CO-STAR WEIGHS IN ON WILL SMITH, CHRIS ROCK DRAMAThe Friday evening news dump was an old school public relations strategy given that the Grammy Awards would begin airing in fewer than 48 hours with the Smith team all but hoping something would happen to overshadow Smith’s self-imposed exile from the film academy’s voting process.WILL SMITH RESIGNS FROM THE ACADEMY: WHAT HAPPENS NOW?It was also Final Four weekend in the world of sports. Saturday’s Duke-UNC showdown saw 17 lead changes and was the most-watched men’s Final Four semifinal game since 2017, delivering an average of 16.3 million viewers, according to the NCAA.Meanwhile, the academy announced Wednesday in a letter obtained by Fox News Digital that it would be moving its next scheduled meeting date of April 18 to Friday, April 8, at 9 a.m. PT.The meeting, where Smith’s fate may be decided, will take place over a Zoom video conference.
Will Smith will likely learn his fate in the fallout from his smacking Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars Friday after the film academy said it would be moving the date of its board of governors meeting from April 18 to April 8.
(Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)The meeting’s purpose is to “address possible sanctions for Will Smith in response to his actions during the Oscars broadcast on March 27,” the letter from academy President David Rubin to members states. “Following Mr. Smith’s resignation of his academy membership on Friday, April 1, suspension or expulsion are no longer a possibility, and the legally prescribed timetable no longer applies. It is in the best interest of all involved for this to be handled in a timely fashion,” Rubin’s letter states.FOLLOWING OSCAR SLAP, WILL SMITH IS ‘TRYING NOT TO PANIC,’ WORRIED OF ‘BEING FULLY CANCELED,’ SOURCE CLAIMSSo, who forms Smith’s inner circle tasked with picking up the pieces left behind from the infamous slap and rescuing the A-list star’s brand? These are Smith’s closest confidants.
Will Smith with James Lassiter at an after-party following the Warner Bros. premiere of “ATL” March 30, 2006, in Hollywood.
(Frazer Harrison)James LassiterLassiter is a near-lifer in terms of his relationship with Smith, serving in various capacities as Smith’s manager but also one of his closest business partners in the forming of their families’ production company, Overbrook Entertainment. The company has produced “The Harder They Fall,” “Bad Boys for Life,” “Love and Basketball,” “Men in Black,” “Ali,” “Hitch,” “ATL” and “The Pursuit of Happyness,” to name a few.
Rap duo DJ Jazzy Jeff (Jeff Townes), right, and The Fresh Prince (Will Smith) Oct. 18, 1989, in New York City.
(Al Pereira/Michael Ochs)Jeffrey “Jazzy Jeff” TownesInterestingly enough, Lassiter met Smith through Jeffrey “Jazzy Jeff” Townes, a hip-hop producer and one-half of the rap duo Townes formed with Smith when the actor was at peak musicianship. Now performing as the “Magnificent DJ Jazzy Jeff,” Townes can be seen regularly on “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” reruns making hilarious comments or crude jokes at the expense of Uncle Philip Banks, played by the late James Avery.Smith and Townes most recently performed together in Budapest, Hungary, at Paramount Pictures’ Skydance and Jerry Bruckheimer Films’ “Gemini Man” concert at St. Stephen’s Basilica Square in September 2019.
Meredith O’Sullivan Wasson speaks during the 2019 Makers Conference in Dana Point, Calif. Feb. 7, 2019. 
(Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)Meredith O’Sullivan WassonEasily one of the most influential voices in Smith’s ear is Smith’s publicist. O’Sullivan is the voice of reason, branding strategist and overall shoulder to lean on for Smith.As the co-founder and co-CEO of the famed Lede Company, O’Sullivan’s credentials are cemented in the world of public relations. She has spent about 20 years in the business making clients look good in business dealings and celebrity endorsements, not to mention extensive philanthropic marketing endeavors on behalf of worldwide brands she and her company undertake on a regular basis.Before going out on her own, O’Sullivan was head of West Coast Talent, managing director at 42West and a senior publicist at BWR Public Relations.
Will Smith with Tom Cruise and Richard Lovett of CAA.
(Ray Mickshaw/WireImage)Richard LovettOne of the top dealmakers across an array of industries, Lovett took over as head of Creative Arts Agency (CAA) in 1995 after cutting his chops in its mailroom straight out of college.His client list is a who’s who of Hollywood heavyweights, and the agency recently gobbled up one of its biggest competitors — ICM Partners – merging the two Century City cornerstones to create a mega firm.
Jada Pinkett Smith, left, and Will Smith appear in the audience at the Oscars March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
(AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)Jada Pinkett SmithThe woman at the center of Will Smith’s reaction to Chris Rock’s “G.I. Jane” joke was Jada Pinkett Smith, Will’s wife.Having met on the set of “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” in 1990 after Jada was passed over for a part, Will and Jada didn’t become an item until much later. Will has explained he went to a taping of the coming-of-age sitcom “A Different World” to see Jada but ultimately met his first wife, Sheree Zampino, with whom he shares a son, Trey. Will and Sheree divorced in 1995. After dating for a spell, Jada and Smith tied the knot in December 1997. 
Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith, Will Smith, Jaden Smith and Trey Smith attend the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party
(Rich Fury/VF22/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)Shortly afterward, they welcomed their son Jaden in 1998 and their daughter Willow in 2000. For years, the Smiths could do no wrong in the eyes of the public. They maintained a squeaky clean image, but their marriage was plagued by rumors of extramarital affairs.CHRIS ROCK WAS ‘SHAKEN’ BY WILL SMITH INCIDENT BACKSTAGE AT OSCARS: SOURCEThe couple famously discussed the bedlam of their marriage on Jada’s “Red Table Talk” series in July 2020.Jada revealed on the episode that she was actually reluctant to jump the broom with Will. “I was under so much pressure being a young actress and pregnant, and I didn’t know what to do,” she explained, adding that she was in her first trimester with Jaden at the time and wasn’t in any position emotionally to get hitched. “I was so upset that I had to have a wedding. I was so pissed.” It wasn’t until 2013 when Hollywood’s “it” couple developed a chink in their armor. During an interview with Huffington Live, fans harped on remarks Jada made to Marc Lamont Hill that many believed suggested the pair had entered into an open marriage.WILL AND JADA PINKETT SMITH THROUGH THE YEARSCANDLE MEDIA BACKS WILL SMITH AS NETFLIX, OTHERS REPORTEDLY PAUSE PROJECTS FOLLOWING OSCARS SLAP”I’ve always told Will, ‘You can do whatever you want as long as you can look at yourself in the mirror and be OK,’” she told Hill. “Because at the end of the day, Will is his own man. I’m here as his partner, but he is his own man. He has to decide who he wants to be and that’s not for me to do for him. Or vice versa.” She later clarified her stance in an open letter posted to Facebook. “Here is how I will change my statement,” she wrote. “Will and I BOTH can do WHATEVER we want because we TRUST each other to do so. This does NOT mean we have an open relationship … this means we have a GROWN one.” Fans of Jada will remember the “Set It Off” actress “bringing” herself to the Red Table in 2020 for a no-holds-barred conversation about a short-lived separation and the string of events that she said pushed her to date R&B performer August Alsina in 2016. 
August Alsina and Jada Pinkett Smith at the 2017 BET Awards at Staples Center June 25, 2017, in Los Angeles.
(Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET)”I just wanted to feel good, it had been so long since I felt good,” she lamented. “And it was really a joy to just help heal someone. I think that has a lot to do with my codependency.” In April 2020, Jada once again opened up about her marriage with Will during a Red Table Talk episode, “How Your Relationship Can Survive Quarantine.”WILL SMITH’S DAUGHTER WILLOW POSTS CRYPTIC TWEET ABOUT THE ‘MEANING OF LIFE’ FOLLOWING OSCAR SLAP”I have to be honest. I think one of the things that I’ve realized is that I don’t know Will at all,” she explained, adding that they were still learning how to coexist as friends during the taxing pandemic.  “You get into all these ideas of what intimate relationships are supposed to look like, what marriages are supposed to be,” she said. “Will and I are in the process of him taking the time to learn to love himself, me taking the time to learn to love myself, right, and us building a friendship along the way.” 
Caleeb Pinkett and Will Smith arrive for the U.K. premiere of “King Richard” at Curzon Cinema Mayfair Nov. 17, 2021, in London.
(Tim P. Whitby)Caleeb PinkettThe younger half-sibling to Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, Caleeb, 42, is an actor and producer who serves as Overbrook’s president of film.In 2018, Caleeb joined Pinkett Smith, her daughter Willow Smith and her mother Adrienne Banfield-Jones on “Red Table Talk” where they opened up about their family’s trauma. Jada admitted that she and Caleeb have a “shared source of pain” through their father, Robsol Pinkett Jr., who had a history of drug abuse before he died in 2010.CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT NEWSLETTERJada said it was Caleeb who informed her of her father’s death shortly after she and Robsol had engaged in a heated argument.
Will Smith, left, and Jada Pinkett Smith arrive at the Oscars March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
(AP Photo/John Locher)Smith announced his resignation from the academy in a statement via his representative.”I have directly responded to the academy’s disciplinary hearing notice, and I will fully accept any and all consequences for my conduct,” Smith said in a statement to Fox News Digital.CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
Will Smith attends the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.
(P. Lehman/Future Publishing)”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.”Smith also apologized to Rock via a statement shared on his Instagram.Fox News’ Melissa Roberto contributed to this report.

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