Joaquin Phoenix used his BAFTA win on Sunday for his performance in Joker to deliver a poignant message to his industry.
The 45-year-old Joker star aimed his acceptance speech at addressing the controversy surrounding this year’s all-white BAFTA acting nominees, saying he felt “very honored and privileged” by the honor, while also feeling “conflicted.”
… So many of my fellow actors that are deserving don’t have that same privilege,” Phoenix said. “I think that 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 the people who have contributed so much to our medium and our industry and in ways that we benefit from.”
Phoenix, who is also nominated for an Oscar for his role in the Joker, pointed out, “I don’t think anyone wants a handout or preferential treatment — although that’s what we give each other every year.”
“I think people just want to be acknowledged and respected and appreciated for their work,” he continued. “This is not a self-righteous condemnation because I’m ashamed to say I am part of the problem. I have not done everything in my power to ensure that the sets I work on are inclusive.”
He continued, “I think it’s more than having sets that are multicultural.”
“I think that we have to really do the hard work to truly understand systemic racism. I think 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 concluded.
Phoenix’s message was echoed by Prince William, who was in attendance at Sunday night’s awards show with his wife, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge.
During William’s opening speech at the BAFTAs, he pointedly addressed the lack of diversity in the awards nominations saying, “Catherine and I are once again really delighted to join you this evening. Tonight we celebrate another year of exceptional filmmaking and I’m thrilled that all those involved have been recognized.”
“Both here in the U.K. and in many other countries across the world we are lucky to have incredible filmmakers, actors, producers, directors and technicians – men and women from all backgrounds and ethnicities enriching our lives through film,” he continued. “Yet in 2020, and not for the first time in the last few years, we find ourselves talking again about the need to do more to ensure diversity in the sector and in the awards process – that simply cannot be right in this day and age!”
The father of three added, “I know that both Pippa, Chair of BAFTA, and Amanda, BAFTA CEO, share that frustration and continue to work tirelessly to ensure that creative talent is discovered and supported. BAFTA takes this issue seriously, and following this year’s nominations have launched a full and thorough review of the entire Awards process to build on their existing work and ensure that opportunities are available to everyone.”
When the awards show nominations came out earlier this month, BAFTA faced backlash when fans noticed that the list did not feature non-white actors. In addition, the list had only listed male directors.
The nominating committee addressed the backlash shortly after the nods were announced, calling it an “industry-wide issue.”
“We’d have liked to have seen more diversity in the nominations, it does continue to be an industry-wide issue,” BAFTA’s director of awards, Emma Baehr, told The Hollywood Reporter. “I think more films need to be made, and entered, giving people a chance to see them. We’d absolutely like to see more diversity, but I also don’t want to take away from those celebrating today.”
Actors of color — including Cynthia Erivo for Harriet, Asian-American actress Awkwafina for The Farewell, Kenyan-Mexican actress Lupita Nyong’o for Us, Spanish actor Antonio Banderas for Pain and Glory, Eddie Murphy for Dolemite Is My Name, Jennifer Lopez for Hustlers and Jamie Foxx for Just Mercy — were omitted from the nominations.