The Academy made waves at the beginning of September when it announced new inclusion standards that films would have to meet in order to be eligible for the Best Picture Oscar starting in 2024. The new rules earned as many champions as they did detractors, but even skeptics like Spike Lee can see that the Academy is making a step in the right direction. The “Da 5 Bloods” filmmaker tells Variety in this week’s cover story that Oscar voters who flat out oppose the new set of rules “probably voted for ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ and ‘Green Book.'”
While Lee acknowledges there are “a lot of loopholes” with the Academy’s new inclusion rules, he adds “their heart is in the right place. I will say that.” What Lee really wants to do is “sit down with somebody from the Academy” so that he can address the real battlefield at hand, which for the director is “the rarefied air of the gatekeepers.”
“These are the people, individuals who decide what we’re making and what we’re not making, who’s going to write it, who’s going to direct it, who’s going to produce it, who’s a star in this,” Lee said. “In speaking about the subject, I always go to Lin-Manuel’s ‘Hamilton’ — You got to be in the motherfucking room. You got to be in the room where it happens. If we’re not in the motherfucking room where the motherfucker happens, ain’t no motherfucking thing going to change. Quote that!”
Lee has often been outspoken about “Green Book” and “Driving Miss Daisy” winning Oscars for Best Picture. Both films tell stories about race from a white perspective. When “Green Book” won Best Picture, Lee famously turned his back to the stage and appeared visibly angry over the decision. “Green Book” won over Lee’s own “BlacKkKlansman,” which earned the filmmaker an Oscar for screenwriting. Lee reacted to the “Green Book” win backstage by saying, “The ref made a bad call.”
At the 1990 Oscars, “Driving Miss Daisy” won Best Picture while Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” didn’t even land a nomination. As Lee told reporters at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, “To be honest, after ‘Do the Right Thing,’ I said, ‘That’s it.’ You know? 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?”
Lee’s latest film, “Da 5 Bloods,” opened on Netflix in June and is widely expected to factor into the Oscar race. Head over to Variety’s website to read Lee’s cover story in its entirety.