Breaking News Emails
Veteran Hollywood director Spike Lee won his first competitive Oscar on Sunday night for best adapted screenplay with his explosive docudrama "BlacKkKlansman," but his excitement turned sour after the best picture winner was revealed.
During backstage interviews, Lee said surprise winner "Green Book" — based on the story of black pianist and composer Don Shirley and his white driver in the 1960s Jim Crow era — was a "bad call."
In 1990, Lee's dramedy "Do the Right Thing" lost in its best writing category at the Academy Awards, the same year that "Driving Miss Daisy" — about the relationship between a black chauffeur and his white wealthy employer — took home a statue in a separate writing category.
"I'm snakebit. I mean, every time somebody is driving somebody, I lose," Lee, 61, said to laughter in between sips of champagne. "But they changed the seating arrangement!"
When asked specifically about "Green Book" winning best picture over "BlacKkKlansman," Lee joked: "Let me take another sip ... Next question! ... What reaction did you see? What did I do?"
Reporters at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood had earlier tweeted that Lee was "visibly angry" when "Green Book" won, and was "waving his arms in disgust and appearing to try to storm out" of the venue.
Lee said backstage that he couldn't help himself.
"No, I thought it was courtside at the Garden, and the ref made a bad call," said the die-hard New York Knicks fan.
According to reports, other attendees didn't clap when "Green Book" won best picture, beating out the favorite "Roma," as well as other contenders, "Black Panther," "Bohemian Rhapsody," "The Favourite," "A Star Is Born" and "Vice."
"Green Book," which also earned best supporting actor for Mahershala Ali (who plays Shirley) and best original screenplay, has been slammed by some viewers and critics as a "white savior" film, written and directed by white people and that uses racial clichés.
During awards season, its screenwriter, Nick Vallelonga, the son of the real-life driver, Tony Lip, was under fire for a 2015 tweet about Muslims cheering during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that had already been debunked.
In an unrelated controversy, the movie's director, Peter Farrelly, said he was "deeply sorry" after a 1998 Newsweek article resurfaced in which he admitted to exposing himself on the set of "There's Something About Mary."
Lee's "BlacKkKlansman" also tackles race, and tells the true story of black Colorado detective Ron Stallworth, who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1970s.
Lee used his screenplay win on Sunday, which he shared with fellow writers Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott, to call attention to the continued struggle of black Americans and the legacy of racism and slavery.
"The 2020 presidential election is around the corner," he said during his acceptance speech. "Let's all mobilize. Let's all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate. Let's do the right thing! You know I had to get that in there."
Trump defended himself in a tweet Monday and claimed Lee's speech was a "racist hit on your President, who has done more for African Americans (Criminal Justice Reform, Lowest Unemployment numbers in History, Tax Cuts,etc.) than almost any other Pres!"