Hollywood historians will remember the 74th Academy Awards for the long-overdue flood of acclaim for African-American actors. Halle Berry and Denzel Washington snagged honors in the lead acting categories, while Sidney Poitier the best actor victor for 1963's Lilies of the Field collected an honorary trophy for lifetime achievement. How did Poitier react to Oscar's props and love?
"If I'm worthy of it, then it was wonderful," he told reporters backstage at the ceremony. "But you know, I've been a part of this community for 50-odd years and I've done 53 motion pictures, most of which were made in this town. This Hollywood that you know was not the Hollywood here when I arrived."
Poitier added that it's "debatable" whether things have changed "enough" for thespians of color. "I think to speak of Hollywood as if there has not been change is unfair," he said cautiously. "You can question the pace of it. You can even question how long it will last. We ought to take note of the fact that there has been change."
Poitier pointed to top-earning A-listers like Washington, Morgan Freeman
and Wesley Snipes
as examples of black progress in Tinseltown. "We have lots and lots and lots of African-American actors," he beamed. "[In the early days], when we didn't have any, I appeared." Humbly, he qualified: "Not because I brought so much, but because the time was right. The world was at a certain place... and my career happened to catch hold at that time."