While Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith have called for an Oscar boycott, John Singleton, who became the first African-American nominated for the best director Academy Award for his 1991 film “Boyz n the Hood,” doesn’t have a problem with this year’s diversity-lacking nominations.
Singleton, who’s directing an episode of FX’s upcoming “People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” says the nominees depend less on race and more on what’s eligible in a given year’s award cycle.
“There’s only so many slots, though,” Singleton told Variety when asked why the Academy did not nominate any African-American nominees. “There are a couple of movies that may have (warranted attention) but … It’s all subjective. It’s almost like the lottery.”
Singleton continued, “It’s like every year people complain. People even complain even when we have a lot of nominations. It is what it is. I’ve been in the game for 25 years. You never know — it’s the luck of the draw for you. To me, I’m not surprised. I’m not disappointed either, as much as other people are disappointed. There’s a whole elevation of work that happens.”
Elaborating on that “elevation,” Singleton explains that each year, films are snubbed, and some of those unrepresented projects gain awareness and recognition after award season.
“Every year there’s at least a few films that don’t get nominated and you have all these films that do get nominated and then the films that aren’t nominated are elevated over time. ‘Do the Right Thing’ never got nominated for best picture, but that year, nobody’s talking about ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ any more. Everybody’s still talking about ‘Do the Right Thing.’ It happens every year.”
Though he was nominated for “Boyz n the Hood” (marking not only the first black director to be nominated, but also the youngest person ever in that category at the age of 24), Singleton recalls a piece of advice he received at that time.
“As my friend Sidney Poitier told me when ‘Boyz n the Hood’ came out, just because a film doesn’t get recognized when it first comes out, does not mean it’s not a great film. ‘Singing in the Rain’ was not lauded when it first came out, but ‘Singing in the Rain’ became a classic,” he said. “To me, as a veteran, it doesn’t bother me as much. I know there are other works that will be recognized by a more diverse Academy and I know there will be other years when work that is really deserving doesn’t get recognized.”
However, Singleton, who has also directed an episode of “Empire,” was upset by one snub: “I do think ‘Straight Outta Compton’ could have been nominated for best picture,” he said, adding that Jason Mitchell, who portrayed Eazy-E, should have earned a best supporting actor nod, at the very least.
“The demographics of America and this business are changing,” Singleton said. “The Academy’s going to evolve. So I’m not really worried about it.”
Cynthia Littleton conducted the interview with Singleton for this report.