Hollywood history is made every Oscar night, but this year, the annual awards show could play home to a number of groundbreaking wins in major categories. One of the biggest potential upsets is a Best Director win for Spike Lee, only the sixth black filmmaker nominated in the category. If he wins on Sunday night for “BlackKklansman,” he’ll be the first.
One person who remains inspired by Lee’s body of work over his Oscar nods: his “Do the Right Thing” star and frequent collaborator Samuel L. Jackson. In a recent interview with IndieWire, Jackson — who next appears in “Captain Marvel,” reprising his role of Nick Fury — spoke about the possibility that Lee might make history on Sunday night.
“Oh, it would be great,” Jackson said. “I don’t think not having an Oscar would diminish his career at all. He is who he is, and there are a lot of people, me included, that have benefited from what he did. There is no doubt that, had I not done ‘Jungle Fever,’ I don’t know if I’d be here or not, sitting in this chair. It propelled me into this arena, and I’m forever grateful for it, and I hope he does win.”
This year, the 61-year-old filmmaker has landed his first set of nominations since “4 Little Girls” was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 1998 Academy Awards. Before that, however, Lee was notoriously snubbed at the 1990 Oscars, and while he earned a nod for Best Original Screenplay, the film failed to earn nominations for Best Picture and Best Director.
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Last summer, he reflected on the snubs to GQ, explaining that they made him believe that the Academy would only continue to overlook his work. Lee was awarded an Honorary Academy Award in 2016, but he has yet to ever win a competitive Oscar.
“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?”
Jackson, who has worked with Lee since 1988’s “School Daze,” credits his “Old Boy” and “Chi-Raq” director with inspiring other young creators.
“Spike opened the door for a lot of young directors,” Jackson said. “He made a lot of young filmmakers aware of the possibilities, that they could tell their own stories and be successful, that they could tell their own stories their way, that there was an interest in their stories and that all you need to do is hang in there and do what you do.”
“BlacKkKlansman” is also nominated for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Editing, and Best Supporting Actor for Adam Driver.
“Captain Marvel” opens in theaters on Friday, March 8.