Joker star Joaquin Phoenix used his acceptance speech at the EE British Academy Film Awards on Sunday to excoriate the annual show for the lack of racial diversity among this year’s acting nominees, sending a message, he said, to people of color that they’re “not welcome here.”
Joaquin Phoenix nabbed the lead actor award for Joker at the glitzy awards show, which is the British equivalent of the Academy Awards and is widely viewed as a harbinger for Hollywood’s biggest night.
The actor took to the stage at the Royal Albert Hall in London where he accused BAFTA voters of perpetuating “systemic racism” and sending a message to people of color that they’re “not welcome here.” The star also blamed himself, saying that “I’m part of the problem.”
This year’s BAFTA film acting nominees were all white, though the “rising star” category, which is voted on by the public, featured three actors of color.
— BAFTA (@BAFTA) February 2, 2020
“I feel very honored and privileged to be here tonight. BAFTA has always been very supportive of my career and I’m deeply appreciative. But I have to say I also feel conflicted because so many of my fellow actors that are deserving don’t have that same privilege,” Phoenix said in his acceptance speech.
“I think we send a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here. I think that’s the message we’re sending to people that have contributed so much to our medium and our industry and in ways that we benefit from.”
Phoenix also implicated himself, saying that he hasn’t done enough to ensure diversity on the movie sets he works on.
“I don’t think anybody wants a handout or a preferential treatment,” he continued. “Although that’s what we give ourselves every year. I think that people just want to be acknowledged and appreciated and respected for their work. This is not a self-righteous condemnation because I’m ashamed to say that I’m part of the problem. I have not done everything in my power to ensure that the sets I work on are inclusive.”
The actor concluded by invoking the “systemic racism” that he said lies at the heart of the entertainment industry.
“But I think that it’s more than just having sets that are multicultural. I think that we have to really do the hard work to truly understand systemic racism. I think that it is the obligation of the people that have created and perpetuate and benefit from a system of oppression to be the ones that dismantle it. So that’s on us,” he said.
Phoenix’s speech received an enthusiastic round of applause from the celebrity audience gathered on Sunday.
The actor has taken a number of the political stands in recent weeks. He was arrested in Washington, D.C. in January while taking part in a climate change rally organized by Jane Fonda. At the Golden Globe Awards, he encouraged his fellow Hollywood stars to swear off flying private jets.
“We don’t have to take private jets from Palm Springs to the awards, please. I’ll try to do better and I hope you will too,” he said.
On Sunday, the BAFTA for best picture went to 1917, the World War I drama directed by Sam Mendes that is now regarded as the heavy favorite to be the big winner on Oscar night.