Michael Bay Insists Will Smith Is 'Very Even-Keeled Guy' After Oscars Slap

Movie director Michael Bay has insisted that Will Smith is a "very even-keeled guy" as he continues to face the fallout from slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars.

Smith was banned on Friday from all Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' events for the next 10 years, after he struck Rock onstage in reaction to a joke the comedian made about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

While a number of public figures have spoken out to condemn Smith's actions, filmmaker Bay, who directed the star in the first two Bad Boys movies, has expressed his support for the beleaguered actor.

In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Bay was asked if he would ever work with Smith again, in light of the incident, to which he responded: "Absolutely, 100 percent. He's a very even-keeled guy. Very even-keeled."

Elsewhere, Bay, director of Transformers, The Rock and Pearl Harbor, suggested that there was something of a public overreaction to the headline-making moment, as he pointed to the bigger issues that he felt were getting less attention.

Recalling watching Smith slap Rock, Bay said: "At first, immediately I'm like, Did this just happen? Then I saw the yell from Will. That's a real Will yell.

"Will is an amazing fighter. He's studied boxing. First of all, it's wrong to do, no matter what. Let's just get that out there. But when people said, "Oh, he could have killed him." No, a slap is different. A punch? Yeah, you can kill someone. Will gave him a slap."

Will Smith and Michael Bay
Movie director Michael Bay (R) has insisted that Will Smith (L) is a "very even-keeled guy" as he continues to face the fallout from slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars. Samir Hussein/WireImage;/David Livingston/FilmMagic

The director went on: "I'm thinking, Everyone's talking about this, but you know what? You start thinking about life and it's like, Oh, my God. Because I've been very affected by this Ukrainian war right now.

"I'm friends with the Klitschko brothers. I've been to Kyiv, I've met with the mayor. And I'm like, you know what? There are babies getting blown up by the hundreds right now and people are so concerned about this. I don't know.

"To me, it's just like, enough of it. All right, so a dramatic thing happened, but I just think we've got to get our priorities straight."

Vitali Klitschko, a former world heavyweight boxing champion, is mayor of Kyiv, while his brother Wladimir, also a former boxing world title holder, joined a Ukrainian reserve army unit before the Russian invasion.

Minutes after Smith struck Rock at the Oscars, he returned to the stage to accept a Best Actor award for his performance in the biopic King Richard. During his acceptance speech, he apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees. An apology to Rock was issued one day later, via Smith's Instagram account.

Days after the incident, Smith resigned from the Academy, less than a week before the organization announced its decision to ban the star from its events for a decade.

The Academy said in its statement: "The 94th Oscars were meant to be a celebration of the many individuals in our community who did incredible work this past year; however, those moments were overshadowed by the unacceptable and harmful behavior we saw Mr. Smith exhibit on stage.

"During our telecast, we did not adequately address the situation in the room. For this, we are sorry. This was an opportunity for us to set an example for our guests, viewers and our Academy family around the world, and we fell short—unprepared for the unprecedented."

In the open letter to the "Academy family," David Rubin, president of the Academy, and CEO Dawn Hudson then announced that Smith would be banned from all of its events, both in person and virtually, until 2033.

They went on to commend Rock for maintaining "his composure under extraordinary circumstances. We also want to thank our hosts, nominees, presenters and winners for their poise and grace during our telecast."

Will Smith and Chris Rock
Will Smith slaps Chris Rock onstage during the 94th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on March 27, 2022. Smith struck Rock in the face after the comedian made a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images