Will Packer (1974- )

Packer smiling in a fedora, vest and tie
Packer alongside other Executive Producers Brian Bradley and James Leasure for the press tour of 2016's Uncle Buck, January 9, 2016
Courtesy Walt Disney Television under CC BY-ND 2.0 license

Will Packer is a film producer who was best known for producing the 94th Annual Academy Awards (the Oscars) on March 27, 2022. Packer was born on April 11, 1974, to Birice Paker and William Packer Sr. in St. Petersburg, Florida. He completed high school in St. Petersburg, Florida, graduating in 1991. He then attended Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering in 1996.

While attending college, Packer started making films with film director Robert Hardy Jr. and did an internship with producer Warrington Hardin. Packer produced his first film, Chocolate City (1994), with Hardy, making the movie for $20,000. They had a distribution deal with Blockbuster Video.

After graduating, Packer and Hardy moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and co-founded the film production company Rainforest Films, which produced movies targeting African American audiences. In 2000, the company released Trois, one of the most successful independent films of the year, grossing $1.2 million. Under Rainforest Films, Packer produced other films, including Trois 2 (2002), Pandora’s Box (2002), Motives (2004), Trois: The Escort (2004), The Gospel (2005), Stomp the Yard (2007), This Christmas (2007), Obsessed (2009), and Takers (2010).

In 2013, Packer founded Will Packer Productions and signed a three-year deal with Universal Pictures. Packer continued to produce more films during that decade, including Think Like a Man (2012), Think Like a Man Too (2014), Ride Along (2014), Straight Outta Compton (2015), Ride Along 2 (2016), Night School (2018), Girls Trip (2017), and The Photograph (2020).

Packer’s television production credits include Roots (a 2016 remake of the 1977 television series), Uncle Buck (2016), Being Mary Jane (2017-2019), The Quad (2017-2018), Ready to Love (2018), The Atlanta Child Murders (2019), Ambitions (2019), and Bigger (2019-2021). Packer is also a co-founder alongside Martin Luther King III, Andrew Young, and Rob Hardy of Bounce TV, an African American television network.

In 2022, Packer was named producer of the 94th Academy Awards on March 27, 2022, the first Black producer to hold that distinction. The award show, however, was overshadowed by the joke made by comedian Chris Rock about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head resulting from a hair condition called Alopecia areata. In response to the joke, Will Smith, Jada’s husband, walked on stage and slapped Chris Rock. This assault, witnessed by millions worldwide, resulted in Smith receiving a ten-year ban from appearing at future Academy Awards shows. The incident did not tarnish Packer’s career, which continues as of 2022.

Packer married his first wife, Nina Packer, in 2001. The couple had two daughters, Nija Packer and Maya Packer, before divorcing in 2009. Packer married a second time in 2013 to Heather Hayslett.