Better late than never, eh?
Earlier this year, Will Smith made headlines when he slapped the hell out of Chris Rock on the stage, after Chris made a pretty mild GI Jane joke about Will’s wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith, being bald.
She has alopecia, so Will took exception to the joke (and clearly has some other things going on), walked up on stage and slapped Chris right in the face.
“KEEP MY WIFE’S NAME OUT OF YOUR F*CKING MOUTH.”
It was the talk of Hollywood for like 2 months…
But that night actually reminded us of another infamous night in Oscars history… all the way back in 1973. Marlon Brando won his second Academy Award that year for his role in The Godfather.
With that being said, he never accepted the award himself, but rather, he sent Apache President of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee, Sacheen Littlefeather, up on stage to accept the award on his behalf, so she could speak about the poor treatment of Native Americans, according to The London Economic.
When she got to the mic, she spoke about the poor treatment and depiction of Native Americans in the film industry, which you can tell in the video was not taken too fondly by the crowd.
Clint Eastwood, who was hosting the Oscars that year, came on stage afterwards and had some sly remarks towards Littlefeather, saying:
“I don’t know if I should present this award on behalf of all the cowboys shot on all the John Ford westerns in the theaters.”
However, that wasn’t the wildest part of the night.
According to Littlefeather, John Wayne was having to be physically restrained by six security guards from running on stage and confronting her:
“During my presentation, he was coming towards me to forcibly take me off the stage, and he had to be restrained by six security men to prevent him from doing so.”
Needless to say, if Wayne would’ve broke through the restraints, things could’ve gotten ugly quick.
So while, Will Smith’s slap was definitely a bad moment in Oscar history… he isn’t alone.
However now, some 50 years later… the Academy is apologizing.
Announced today, Academy will be welcoming Littlefeather to the newly opened Academy Museum for a conversation on “reflection, healing and celebration.”
The issued the following apology in June, which you can read below:
“Dear Sacheen Littlefeather,
I write to you today a letter that has been a long time coming on behalf of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with humble acknowledgment of your experience at the 45th Academy Awards.
As you stood on the Oscars stage in 1973 to not accept the Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando, in recognition of the misrepresentation and mistreatment of Native American people by the film industry, you made a powerful statement that continues to remind us of the necessity of respect and the importance of human dignity.
The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified. The emotional burden you have lived through and the cost to your own career in our industry are irreparable. For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration.
We cannot realize the Academy’s mission to “inspire imagination and connect the world through cinema” without a commitment to facilitating the broadest representation and inclusion reflective of our diverse global population.
Today, nearly 50 years later, and with the guidance of the Academy’s Indigenous Alliance, we are firm in our commitment to ensuring indigenous voices—the original storytellers—are visible, respected contributors to the global film community. We are dedicated to fostering a more inclusive, respectful industry that leverages a balance of art and activism to be a driving force for progress.
We hope you receive this letter in the spirit of reconciliation and as recognition of your essential role in our journey as an organization. You are forever respectfully engrained in our history.
With warmest regards,
President, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences”
And she graciously accepted.
She responded to the apology letter with a statement of her own:
“Regarding the Academy’s apology to me, we Indians are very patient people—it’s only been 50 years! We need to keep our sense of humor about this at all times. It’s our method of survival.
I never thought I’d live to see the day for this program to take place, featuring such wonderful Native performers and Bird Runningwater, a television and film producer who also guided the Sundance Institute’s commitment to Indigenous filmmakers for twenty years through the Institute’s Labs and Sundance Film Festival.
This is a dream come true. It is profoundly heartening to see how much has changed since I did not accept the Academy Award 50 years ago. I am so proud of each and every person who will appear on stage.”