Los Angeles: Oscars host Chris Rock opened the annual show of glitz and pageantry on Sunday, honouring it with a salvo of hard-hitting jokes targeting the lack of racial diversity among the nominees.
Tinseltown's elite gathered for the glittering celebration with survival epic "The Revenant" leading the charge for golden statuettes — but a row over the lack of ethnic minority acting hopefuls overshadowed the proceedings.
"Well, I'm here at the Academy Awards — otherwise known as the white People's Choice awards. You realize if they nominated hosts, I wouldn't even get this job. Y'all would be watching Neil Patrick Harris right now," joked Rock, 51, as he began his opening monologue.
For the second year running, all 20 nominees in the main acting categories are white, and an angry social media backlash under the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite has grabbed the awards season headlines.
An audience expected to number several hundred million around the world tuned in as Rock, who is hosting despite calls for him to join a boycott, gave the Academy members a tongue-lashing from the start.
Insiders say he completely rewrote his opening monologue in the wake of the scandal to hold the Academy's 6,000-plus voting members, overwhelmingly white men, to account.
"Things are going to be a little different at the Oscars. This year, in the 'In Memoriam' package, it's just going to be black people that were shot on their way to the movies," Rock joked.
Full text of Chris Rock's opening monologue
Man, I counted at least 15 black people on that montage. Hey, we are at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards. You realize, if they nominated hosts, I wouldn’t even get this job. Y’all would be watching Neil Patrick Harris right now. Here’s the crazy thing. This is the wildest, craziest Oscars to ever host, because we’ve got all of this controversy. No black nominees. People are like, "Chris, you should boycott." How come it’s only unemployed people that tell you to quit something? No one with a job ever tells you to quit. I thought about quitting, I thought about it really hard. But I realised, they’re going to have it anyway. They’re not going to cancel because I quit. And the last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart. Kevin makes movies fast… porno stars don’t make movies that fast.
The thing is, why are we protesting this Oscars. That’s the big question. Why this Oscars? It’s the 88th Academy Awards, which means this whole no black nominees thing has happened at least 71 other times. You’ve got to figure that it happened in the '50s, in the '60s. One of those years, Sidney didn’t put out a movie, I’m sure there were no black nominees those years. And black people did not protest. Why? Because we had real things to protest at the time. They were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer. When your grandmother is swinging from a tree, it’s really hard to care about Best Documentary Foreign Short.
What happened this year? People went mad. Spike got mad and… Jada went mad, Will went mad. Jada got mad, says she’s not coming. I’m like… isn’t she on a TV show? Jada is going to boycott the Oscars? Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited! I get it, Jada is mad…your man was turned down, I get it. It’s not fair that Will was this good and didn’t get nominated, I get it. It’s also not fair that Will was paid $20 million for Wild Wild West.
This year, at the Oscars, things are going to be a little different. This year in the in memoriam package, it’s just going to be black people that were shot by the cops on their way to the movies. Yes I said it, alright. You want black nominees every year, you need to just have black categories. You already do it with men and women, think about it. There is no real reason for there to be a man and a woman category in acting. It’s not track and field. You don’t have to separate them. You know, Robert De Niro has never said, "I’d better slow this acting down so Meryl Streep can catch up." If you want black people every year at the Oscars, just have black categories, like: Best Black Friend. "And the winner for the 18th year in a row is Wanda Sykes. This is Wanda’s 18th Black Oscar."
But here is the real question everyone in the world wants to know: Is Hollywood racist? ... Is it fetch me some lemonade racist? No, it’s a different type of racist. I remember one night, I was at a fundraiser for President Obama. And it was me, and all of Hollywood. And there were about four black people there. Me, Questlove, Russell Simmons, the usual suspects. And every black actor that wasn’t working. Needless to say, Kevin Hart wasn’t there. So at some point, you get to take a picture with the President. You get a little moment with the President. I’m like, "Mr. President, you see all these writers, actors, and producers? They don’t hire black people. And they’re the nicest white people on Earth, they’re liberals."
Is Hollywood racist? You’re damn right Hollywood is racist. Hollywood is sorority racist. It’s like, "We like you, Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa." But things are changing. We got a black Rocky this year. Some people call it Creed, I call it Black Rocky. And that’s an unbelievable statement because Rocky takes place in a world where white athletes are as good as black athletes. So Rocky is a science fiction movie. There are things that happened in Star Wars that are more believable than Rocky.
We are here to honor actors… there are a lot of snubs. My favorite actor is Paul Giamatti. Paul Giamatti is the greatest actor in the world. Think about what he has done in the last few years. Last year, he is in 12 Years A Slave and hates black people. This year, he loves black people. That’s range ...
It’s not about boycotting anything, it’s just, we want opportunity. We want black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors. That’s it. And not just once. Leo gets a great part every year. But what about the black actors? Jamie Foxx is one of the best actors in the world. Jamie Foxx was so good in Ray that they went to the hospital and unplugged the real Ray Charles. It’s like, "We don’t need two of these." Everything is not about race, man. Another big thing tonight is, you’re not allowed to ask women what they’re wearing anymore. It’s a whole thing: "ask her more." You have to "ask her more." It’s like, you ask the men more. Everything is not sexism, everything is not racism. They ask the men more because the men are wearing the same outfits. Every guy is wearing the exact same thing. If George Clooney showed up with a lime green tux and a swan coming out of his ass, someone would go, "Hey, what you wearing George?"
Welcome to the 88th Academy Awards. You want diversity, we got diversity! Please welcome Emily Blunt, and somebody whiter, Charlize Theron!