Margaret Gardiner, a journalist for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, generated controversy in the Oscars 2021 virtual press room after she seemingly mistook Daniel Kaluuya for Leslie Odom Jr. Gardiner was in the press room covering the Oscars for the U.K.’s Sunday Times. During Kaluuya’s press conference following his Oscar win for Best Supporting Actor, Gardiner asked him about working with Regina King. Shaka King directed Kaluuya in “Judas and the Black Messiah,” and Regina King directed Leslie Odom Jr. in “One Night in Miami.” Both Kaluuya and Odom were nominated for Supporting Actor.
“I want to congratulate you on this,” Gardiner told Kaluuya. “I’ve been following you since the beginning of your career, and I was wondering what it meant for you to be directed by Regina [King], what this means for you at this time with the world in the state that it’s in.”
Kaluuya responded by telling Gardiner, “Say that question again, please,” although it was unclear if that was because of an audio issue or because he was confused by her question about him working with Regina King. When Gardiner asked her question again, she reframed it and did not mention Regina King.
IndieWire deputy editor Kate Erbland, who was also in the virtual Oscars press room, confirmed that Gardiner’s question initially seemed framed as if Kaluuya had starred in a film directed by Regina King. Erbland added that when Gardiner asked the question again, she omitted the portion about King, seemingly catching her mistake and attempting to gloss over it.
Gardiner took to social media the day after the Oscars to claim she did not confuse Kaluuya for Odom, writing on Twitter, “Daniel Kaluuya, I did not mistake you for Leslie Odom Jr. I’m sorry if it seemed that way. I had wanted to ask about Regina King not being nominated as a director for ‘One Night in Miami,’ and your win for ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ for the community at this time.”
“I had wanted to ask him about winning at this moment. … It’s a zeitgeist moment of people finally recognizing the inequalities of organizations,” Gardiner told The Los Angeles Times. “When I said it, it came out that he couldn’t hear me.”
“I’m sorry you assume I can’t tell these two talented men apart,” Gardiner tweeted in a reply to critics. “I messed up my question. I won’t be believed. I apologize to Daniel, the assumption reflects the very world I wanted to ask about. I cannot defend this. I apologize.”
The controversy is the latest gaffe involving a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that votes for the Golden Globes. The HFPA has been at the center of scandals for months now, most recently expelling former president Philip Berk for declaring Black Lives Matter a “racist hate movement.”
Daniel Kaluuya’s responds to a journalist at the #Oscars who thought he was Leslie Odom Jr. and asked him “what was it like being directed by Regina [King]?”
— DiscussingFilm (@DiscussingFilm) April 26, 2021