While accepting his honorary Oscar Saturday (Nov. 14), director Spike Lee had some strong words for the entertainment world as a whole.
“This industry is so far behind sports, it’s ridiculous,” says Lee. “It’s easier to be the president of the United States as a black person than to be the head of a studio.”
Even though Lee has been successful in his time in Hollywood, he says there is always more work to do. “I see no black folks except for the brother man at the security [desk] who checks my name off the list as I go into the studio. … We need to have some serious discussion about diversity and get some flavor up in this.”
He also took time to admire Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is shepherding A2020, a new plan to promote diversity in the next five years. “She’s trying to do something that needs to be done,” Lee says.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and sciences has recently been criticized for its lack of diversity in Oscar nominees, like “Selma” being shut out in the directing and acting categories.
Onstage to present the award, Denzel Washington, Wesley Snipes and Samuel L. Jackson joked about how Lee has already helped most of the black actors in Hollywood, since all three of them got major career boosts from appearing in Lee’s films.
“Spike Lee has put more African-Americans to work in this business than anyone else in the history of the business,” says Washington, also joking, “He don’t pay nobody, either.”