Legendary film director Spike Lee was given an honorary Oscar at the seventh annual Governors Awards dinner on Saturday (Nov. 14).
Lee was presented the honor by Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson and Wesley Snipes, who have starred in a number of his classic films, including Malcolm X, Do The Right Thing and Jungle Fever. Taking the stage to receive the coveted gold statue, Lee used the opportunity to call out Hollywood on its lack of diversity, E! News reports. Remarking that it is easier for a black person to become the President of the United States than the head of a film studio, Lee called for the industry to take action in a moving speech.
Lee also referenced the ever-growing population of people of color in America, and urged Hollywood to have that reflected:
“Everybody in here probably voted for Obama but when I go to offices, I see no black folks except for the brother man at the security who checks my name off the list as I go into the studio,” he said. “So we can talk ‘yabba yabba yabba’ but we need to have some serious discussion about diversity and get some flavor up in this. This industry is so behind sports it’s ridiculous. It’s easier to be the president of the United States as a black person than be the head of a studio. Honestly, it’s easier to be president of the United States than the head of a studio or head of network. I don’t know if you noticed but the United States census bureau says by the year 2043, white Americans are going to be the minority in this country,” he said. “And all you people out there in the position of hiring, you better get smart because you’ll work for us. Reflect what this country looks like.”
According to Variety, Washington, Jackson and Snipes exchanged quips about working with Lee before presenting them with his award. Jackson referred to the storied director as an “American anarchist,” while Washington revered Lee for giving more black actors the chance to hit the big screen than anyone else in Hollywood.
“Spike Lee has put more African-Americans to work in this business than anyone else in this business,” he said.
Lee took to Facebook on Sunday to express his gratitude to the three acting legends for participating in bestowing the honor upon him.
“What A Blessing To Have Denzel Washington,Samuel L. Jackson And Wesley Snipes Present Me Last Night With The Honorary Oscar For My 29 Year Body Of Work.It Was An Historic Night. YA-DIG? SHO-NUFF. And Dat’s Da Truth,Ruth,” he wrote.
Watch Spike Lee’s speech below: