Jimmy Kimmel wasn't kidding when he promised there'd be no slapping at this year’s Oscars. The late night host showed up for this third gig as Academy Awards emcee with plenty of reinforcements to prevent a replay of last year's infamous Will Smith-Chris Rock incident.
“We want all of you to feel safe ... and we want me to feel safe, so we have strict policies in place,” Kimmel said at the conclusion of his monologue, before calling out the action heroes in the crowd who would be involved in putting those “policies” into practice.
“If any of you get mad at a joke and you decide to get up here and 'get jiggy with it,’” you'll have to go through Adonis Creed to get to me,” Kimmel said, as the cameras cut to newly minted Creed III box office champion Michael B. Jordan. And Rocky’s pupil wasn’t the only ringer in the crowd. “You'll have to do battle with Michelle Yeoh before you get to me,” Kimmel continued, as the Asian action movie icon — and Best Actress nominee — struck a fierce pose from her seat.
The roll call of Kimmel's protectors included Pedro "The Mandalorian" Pascal, Andrew "Spider-Man" Garfield (sadly, his No Way Home Spider-Bros Tom Holland and Tobey Maguire weren't in attendance), Steven "Jaws" Spielberg and, of course, Guillermo... no, not the Pinocchio director. "The sweet little man will beat the Lydia Tár out of you," Kimmel said of his late-night sidekick. "We have no time for shenanigans tonight."
Kimmel also took a not-so-subtle swipe at the producing team that let the Rock-Smith “shenanigans” distract from last year’s awards. “If anyone in this theater commits an act of violence at any point in the show, you will be awarded the Oscar for Best Actor and permitted to give a 19-minute-long speech,” he said, referring to the inaction of the academy or the show’s producers immediately following the slap.
“The academy has a crisis team in place, and if anything unpredictable or violent happens during the ceremony, just do what you did last year. Nothing. Just sit there and do absolutely nothing. Maybe even give the assailant a hug.”
Smith and Rock weren’t the only absent figures that Kimmel called out from the stage. He also noted how odd it was that the biggest proponents of the theatrical experience — James Cameron and Tom Cruise — declined the opportunity to spend nearly four hours in the Dolby Theatre. Cruise also notably declined to attend the Golden Globes in January, which opened the door for the ceremony’s host, Jerrod Carmichael, to make a Scientology joke that immediately went viral.
Kimmel promptly took a page from Carmichael’s book, praising Cruise’s appearance in the beach volleyball scene from Top Gun: Maverick. “Tom Cruise with his shirt off? L. Ron Hubba Hubba.”
As for Cameron, Kimmel used the Avatar director‘s absence as a way to make like Natalie Portman at the 2018 Golden Globes and comment on the distinct lack of female nominees in the Best Director category. “I mean, how does the academy not nominate the guy who directed Avatar? What do they think he is, a woman?” The host specifically referenced two high-profile female-directed films that were snubbed — Till and The Woman King — and encouraged audiences at home to seek them out.
Too bad the Woman King herself, Viola Davis, wasn’t in the audience; considering her action hero transformation, she could have joined Adonis Creed and Spider-Man in keeping the ceremony shenanigans-free.