Oscars 2019: Spike Lee Wins First Oscar, Calls Out Trump, Asks People To ‘Do The Right Thing’
Veteran director Spike Lee took home his first competitive Oscar last night after 30 years of filmmaking. Although he was awarded an honorary Oscar during 2016’s ceremony and is renowned for his directing chops in films like She’s Gotta Have It and Do The Right Thing (which earned him an Oscar nom in 1990), Lee had yet to win a coveted golden statuette – at least, until last night.
The win came in for Best Adapted Screenplay for his film BlacKkKlansman, which Lee co-wrote with Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Wilmott. The film, which stars John David Washington and Adam Driver, tells the true story of Ron Stallworth, a black Colorado Springs detective (Washington) who infiltrated the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan with help from a white co-worker (Driver). The film was highly praised for its bold depiction of race politics, and particularly its usage of real-life footage from the recent Charlottesville riot and President Donald Trump‘s heavily criticized reaction.
Although BlacKkKlansman was nominated for five awards last night (including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor for Driver), adapted screenplay was the only award it took home. The win was announced by Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson, who gleefully called out Lee’s name and then caught the 61-year-old director when he leapt into his arms.
Lee called attention to America’s long history of racism in his acceptance speech. Reminding the audience that the 2020 election is “right around the corner,” Lee used his platform to urge voters to make the “right choice between right and wrong.” His speech was met with a standing ovation.
Although he never explicitly mentioned Trump, the President took Lee’s speech as an attack and tweeted an angry response early Monday morning. “Be nice if Spike Lee could read his notes, or better yet not have to use notes at all, when doing his racist hit on your President,” Trump wrote. Sherrilyn Iffil, director of the NAACP, was quick to come to Lee’s defense, pointing out that Lee’s speech was in no way “racist.”
Be nice if Spike Lee could read his notes, or better yet not have to use notes at all, when doing his 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2019
#SpikeLee’s speech was not racist. It was factual, heartfelt and inspiring. He lifted up his deceased mother, reminded us of this nation’s violent past and called on us to “make the moral choice between love and hate.” Here’s the transcript: pic.twitter.com/M4NdCgZIaY
— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) February 25, 2019
Meanwhile, Lee seemed disappointed by the end of the night, reportedly trying to get up and walk out after Green Book was crowned Best Picture. In an interview backstage after the ceremony, Lee said he thought the “ref made a bad call” and joked that “every time someone is driving somebody, I lose,” referencing his 1990 loss to Driving Miss Daisy.