Will Smith was NEVER asked to leave the Oscars after he slapped Chris Rock. In fact, the opposite is true -- he was told by the producer of the show he could stay ... this according to sources with direct knowledge who were present.
As you know by now, the Academy said Wednesday they had asked Will to leave the Dolby Theater after the slap but he refused. Three sources who were at the ceremony and witnessed various conversations tell TMZ ... yes, after the slap Academy officials were backstage with Will's reps and there were heated conversations about what had gone down.
We're told there was a split among the officials ... some did want him booted, but others did not. There were various discussions during several commercial breaks, but they never reached a consensus.
We're told Will was aware there was talk about asking him to leave the theater. During one of the commercial breaks, we're told Oscars producer Will Packer walked up to Will and said, "We do not want you to leave" ... this according to our sources.
Will Packer walked up to Will Smith just after 8 PM, around 35 minutes after the slap. That's when he told Will he could stay, according to our sources. Will won the Best Actor Award around 5 minutes later.
It's interesting ... the Academy's first statement about the incident never even mentioned Will Smith by name. As the day went on and outrage grew, the Academy became more aggressive and went in hard on Smith, saying he took an aggressive stance and refused to leave.