Spike Lee on Hollywood diversity, new Michael Jackson documentary

Two-time nominee and honorary Oscar recipient Spike Lee will not be at Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony, but instead, he'll be sitting at his usual court-side spot at Madison Square Garden.

"My beloved New York Knicks hopefully will put up a good performance against the Miami Heat," Lee said Friday on "CBS This Morning."

Jada Pinkett Smith, Spike Lee to boycott Oscars

Lee, who released a new Michael Jackson documentary called "Michael Jackson's Journey from Motown to Off the Wall," was among the first in Hollywood to announce he would not be attending the ceremony. It is the second year in a row only white actors have been nominated in the top four acting categories.

"For those keeping score at home, sports fans, 20 to zip. Two years in a row, 20 to zip. Forty-zip, two years, you know that's ridiculous. And I think so many performances that got overlooked," Lee said. "And my wife and I said, 'We can't go.' We didn't call anybody. I was not on the phone with Jada or Will. We did this independently. They did it independently, and other people [have] done it independently too. It's pervasive, and people said, 'We're fed up. We're not going.'"

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced in January that it will take action to make its membership more inclusive, but Lee thinks the problem goes much deeper. To illustrate his point, he said one of his favorite songs in the acclaimed Broadway musical, "Hamilton," was "The Room Where it Happens," where the cast sings, "I wanna be in the room where it happens."

"We're not in the room! We are not in the gatekeeper positions. We don't have green light votes," Lee said. "I'm very happy that ABC appointed an African-American woman [Channing Dungey as the entertainment division president]. That's great. That's a start. So the Oscar thing, it's a bigger thing."

Lee said it all comes down to "dollar bills."

"United States Census Bureau said by the year 2036, white Americans [are] gonna be a minority. So if I'm a businessman, I want to make money, I'm going to appeal to what this country looks like," Lee said.

He also advocated for a version of the NFL's Rooney Rule for the entertainment industry, referring to the NFL policy that mandates teams to interview at least one minority candidate for coaching or general manager positions.

"You cannot ignore people of color in this country like these industries have done, I don't think," Lee said.

In addition to being an advocate for people of color in the entertainment industry, Lee is releasing "Michael Jackson's Journey from Motown to Off the Wall" on Showtime, a division of CBS.


"This is the second documentary I've done on Michael Jackson, and the game plan is, let's just deal with the music. All of the other stuff, not here," Lee said. "Let's just deal with his genius and that's what we've done with 'Bad 25' and now 'Off the Wall.'"

Lee said his ability to take pieces of artists including James Brown, Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Stevie Wonder and make it his own were part of his creative genius.

Today, the Estate of Michael Jackson and Sony Music's Legacy Recordings releases exclusive CD/DVD and CD/Blu-ray editions of Lee's documentary, "Michael Jackson's Journey from Motown to Off the Wall," bundled with Jackson's 1979 album.

#OscarsSoWhite... Again. I Would Like To Thank President Cheryl Boone Isaacs And The Board Of Governors Of The Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences For Awarding Me an Honorary Oscar This Past November. I Am Most Appreciative. However My Wife, Mrs. Tonya Lewis Lee And I Will Not Be Attending The Oscar Ceremony This Coming February. We Cannot Support It And Mean No Disrespect To My Friends, Host Chris Rock and Producer Reggie Hudlin, President Isaacs And The Academy. But, How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White? And Let's Not Even Get Into The Other Branches. 40 White Actors In 2 Years And No Flava At All. We Can't Act?! WTF!! It's No Coincidence I'm Writing This As We Celebrate The 30th Anniversary Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday. Dr. King Said "There Comes A Time When One Must Take A Position That Is Neither Safe, Nor Politic, Nor Popular But He Must Take It Because Conscience Tells Him It's Right". For Too Many Years When The Oscars Nominations Are Revealed, My Office Phone Rings Off The Hook With The Media Asking Me My Opinion About The Lack Of African-Americans And This Year Was No Different. For Once, (Maybe) I Would Like The Media To Ask All The White Nominees And Studio Heads How They Feel About Another All White Ballot. If Someone Has Addressed This And I Missed It Then I Stand Mistaken. As I See It, The Academy Awards Is Not Where The "Real" Battle Is. It's In The Executive Office Of The Hollywood Studios And TV And Cable Networks. This Is Where The Gate Keepers Decide What Gets Made And What Gets Jettisoned To "Turnaround" Or Scrap Heap. This Is What's Important. The Gate Keepers. Those With "The Green Light" Vote. As The Great Actor Leslie Odom Jr. Sings And Dances In The Game Changing Broadway Musical HAMILTON, "I WANNA BE IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS". People, The Truth Is We Ain't In Those Rooms And Until Minorities Are, The Oscar Nominees Will Remain Lilly White. (Cont'd)

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