When presenting the award for Best Picture at the Oscars back in 1988, Eddie Murphy took the chance to give a little impromptu speech about how racist the Academy Awards were, saying only three blacks had won Hollywood’s top award. He may have had a point, or maybe he should have directed his ire at the motion picture industry, which hasn’t featured African Americans as prominently as they should:
Eddie Murphy’s ” . . . moral outrage about the treatment of blacks in the motion picture industry led to two remarkable protests. At the 1988 Academy Awards show, Eddie was the presenter for Best Picture . . . he delivered an unscheduled, rambling diatribe against the Hollywood establishment. An angry Eddie announced to shocked viewers that he almost did not show because ‘they haven’t recognized black people in motion pictures,’ only three blacks have won Oscars in over sixty years. At this rate (Eddie said) ‘we ain’t due until 2004.’ A year earlier, Eddie had refused to pose for Paramount’s seventy-fifth anniversary group photo of the studio’s great stars . . . ” because he thought there would be no other blacks in the photo. Actually there was one other, Lou Gossett, Jr., although that is clearly not enough to suggest that Eddie Murphy’s original sentiment was in error.
[Excerpted from the book Patterns of Bias in Motion Picture Content by John Cones. Found at homevideo.net.]
So when Murphy lost Best Supporting Actor for his role in Dreamgirls to Alan Arkin in an upset, some people considered it payback, and said that 19 years wasn’t long enough for the Academy to forget his outburst:
Oscar’s got a long long memory and revenge is a dish best served cold! Reel back to the 1988 ceremonies when Eddie – presenting for Best Picture – shockingly accused the Academy of discriminating against blacks! I scooped in this column: “The star faced a screaming verbal attack from the show’s producers. One cornered Eddie in the wings and snapped: ‘How DARE you use my show to air your greivances!” And “West Side Story” director and Academy President Robert Wise roared: “As long as I am President you will NEVER, EVER be invited back!” Snarled Eddie: “I don’t give a (BLEEP)!”.
So was his Academy snub… payback time? Wise died in 2005, but many Academy members have never forgot Eddied sneak attack. And from where I sat on Oscar night, it looked like he’d suddenly remembered it too.
[From The National Enquirer print edition, March 19, 2007]
Little bitch Eddie stormed out when he lost out to Alan Arkin, skipping the rest of the ceremonies and missing his costar Jennifer Hudson’s Oscar and the performances from Dreamgirls.
He may have been right when he said back in 1988 “we ain’t due until 2004.” While Halle Berry was the first black woman to win for best actress in the 2002 ceremony for her role in Monster’s Ball, Jamie Foxx won best actor for Ray at the 2005 ceremony, technically the 2004 Oscars, when Morgan Freeman also won for best supporting actor in Million Dollar Baby. (Foxx was the second African American to win for best actor. The first was Sydney Portier in 1963′s Lilies of the Field.)
Then again, Murphy seems to be taking the cash over the high road when it comes to Oscar-worthy parts for African Americans. His dumb ass movie Norbit, in which he plays both a slutty obese black woman and a dorky Urkel type, has been widely criticized for its racial stereotypes. Murphy’s Oscar snub could have had more to do with the timing of that terrible film than with his outspokenness in 1988.
Update: Thanks to commentor Zee for pointing out that Denzel Washington also won in 2002 for Training Day, so maybe Murphy was off by a couple of years after all.