• Filmmaker Spike Lee accepts an award onstage during the Governors Awards on November 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Getty Images North America)Source: Getty Images North America
Spike Lee had a strong message for the film industry while accepting his honorary Oscar at the Governors Awards Saturday night: Get real about racial diversity.
Bryan Alexander

USA Today
16 Nov 2015 - 1:41 PM  UPDATED 16 Nov 2015 - 1:46 PM

Do the Right Thing director Spike Lee made it clear that Hollywood is lacking people of colour in key positions.

"This industry is so behind sports, it’s ridiculous," said Lee from the podium. "It’s easier to be the president of the United States as a black person than to be the head of a studio. Honest. Or the head of a network."

"I’m getting real here," Lee told the room filled with Hollywood's most powerful executives and biggest stars. "Everybody here probably voted for Obama. But when I go to offices, I see no black folks, except for the brother man who is the security guard who checks my name as I go into the studio."

"It’s easier to be the president of the United States as a black person than to be the head of a studio."

Lee, 58, had praise for Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who has spearheaded a five-year plan to get Hollywood executives to hire a more racially diverse workforce.

"President, keep it going," said Lee. "I know it’s tough. We have a long way to go."

Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson and Wesley Snipes presented Lee with his honorary Oscar. Jackson called Lee's politics that of "an American anarchist. I like that about him".

Washington, who starred in Lee's 1992 film Malcolm X, pointed out that the director was key to improving the representation of black actors in films.

"Spike Lee has put more African-Americans to work in this business than anyone else," said Washington.

Gena Rowlands, star of films such as 1980's Gloria and 1974's A Woman Under the Influence, also received her honorary Oscar. After laudatory speeches by actresses Cate Blanchett and Laura Linney, director Nick Cassavetes presented his mother with the gold statue.

"The first Oscar in the family," said Cassavetes. "It's about damn time."

Rowlands, 85, paid tribute to her late husband, writer/director John Cassavetes, who died in 1989. "He wrote me the most magnificent parts," Rowlands said. "I surely do have to thank him for that."

She also gave thanks for her first Oscar award.

"It's all shiny and gold, very handsome," said Rowlands, looking at the statue. "If no one objects, I think I'll take him home with me. I'll find a wonderful place for him to sit. Maybe on the piano."

Debbie Reynolds was unable to attend the Governors Awards to receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award as she recovered from surgery. But Reynolds, 83, did send a recorded message, which was played after Meryl Streep presented the Singin' In the Rain star's trophy.

"I am so sorry that I am sick, but I am thrilled beyond words," Reynolds said.

While daughter Carrie Fisher applauded from the audience, granddaughter Billie Lourd accepted the award on Reynolds' behalf.

"It honestly feels super-weird to be up here without her," said Lourd. "She has always been the leader of our family. I've truly never seen her miss a show in her life. But unfortunately our leader needed a little backup tonight."

©2015 USA Today
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