Spike Lee is gearing up for the release of his Cannes-winning drama “BlacKkKlansman” in August, and the latest stop on the director’s press tour was at GQ. For the magazine’s August profile, Lee opened up on a wide variety of different career topics, including the fact he has never won a competitive Oscar.
Lee was nominated for writing the script to “Do the Right Thing” at the 1990 Academy Awards, but the film was notoriously snubbed in the best picture race, as was Lee for best director. Lee told GQ the Academy’s lack of recognition for “Do the Right Thing” made it clear to him he would rarely be in contention for Oscars in the future. While the Academy gave Lee an honorary prize in 2015, Lee has made peace with his relationship to the Oscars, especially when he remembers the results of the 1990 Oscars compared to the legacy of “Do the Right Thing.”
“To be honest, after ‘Do the Right Thing,’ I said, ‘That’s it.’ You know?” Lee said. “That’s not to say I wasn’t happy to get the honorary award, but as far as Oscars, my thing has always been my body of work. What film won best film of 1989? ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’ Driving Miss motherfucking Daisy. Who’s watching that film now?”
The Oscars snubbing “Do the Right Thing” wasn’t the only time the movie was overlooked during a competition. A year prior, Lee lost the Palme d’Or at Cannes to Steven Soderbergh’s “sex lies and videotape.” Lee has been vocal about his anger over losing the Palme in 1989, and it’s something he is still not over.
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“[Jury members] Sally Field and the late, great Héctor Babenco, who directed one of my most favorite films, ‘Pixote,’ they told me that it was Wenders that did it,” Lee told GQ. “He was not letting it happen. He just lied again at Cannes this year and said jury presidents have no power. I would have left the hatchet buried, but now he lied again.”
Lee has had to deal with Oscar snubs for much of his career, another notable example being “Malcolm X.” The Academy failed to recognize Lee in the best director race once again, while Denzel Washington lost the best actor trophy to Al Pacino for “Scent of a Woman.” Many view Pacino’s win as recognition for his career, as he had never won an Oscar up until that point. Lee called out Washington’s snub in the pilot episode of his Netflix series, “She’s Gotta Have It.”
Lee returned to the Palme d’Or race this year with “BlacKkKlansman.” The movie lost the top award but did earn the runner-up Grand Prix award. Focus Features will open the film in theaters August 10. Head over to GQ to read Lee’s full interview.