BEVERLY HILLS (Reuters) – Sylvester Stallone, thrilled to be back as an Oscar contender for the first time in 40 years, said on Monday he had thought twice about taking part in the Oscar ceremony because of the uproar over the scarcity of black talent in the contest.
Stallone, 69, is the only person from the boxing movie “Creed” to be nominated for an Oscar, although the film stars African-American Michael B. Jordan and was directed and written by Ryan Coogler, who also is black.
“I never thought I’d cross this threshold again,” Stallone told reporters at the annual luncheon to celebrate all the Oscar nominees ahead of the Academy Awards on Feb. 28.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled, and my daughters actually look at me now as an actor and not as a bad golfer,” he joked.
Stallone was last Oscar-nominated for writing and performing the lead role in his 1976 movie “Rocky,” which went on to win the best picture Academy Award without honoring his efforts.
He is considered a front runner for the supporting actor Oscar for reprising his role as Rocky Balboa, now a boxing trainer and mentor, in “Creed.”
Stallone said he owed his success to Jordan and Coogler, who were among people of color, including Latinos and Asian-Americans, perceived as snubbed when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its nominees last month.
After black actor Will Smith and director Spike Lee said they would not attend the 2016 ceremony in protest, Stallone said he asked Coogler what he should do.
“(Coogler) said, ‘Just go there and try to represent the film… We feel you deserve it, but eventually things will change.’
“I said, ‘If you want me to go I’ll go. If you don’t, I won’t. And he said, ‘No, I want you to go.’ That’s the kind of guy he is.”
The Academy has since announced plans to double the numbers of women and people of color in its ranks by 2020.
Australian director George Miller, whose action movie “Mad Max; Fury Road” is in the running for a best picture Oscar, told reporters he would think harder about diversity when making his next movie.
“I think what’s good about what’s happened, if there’s a positive, is that it’s alerted everybody to the problem. It’s really interesting to me how television responded way earlier than I think cinema has in all countries in terms of diversity,” Miller said on Monday.
Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy, editing by Jill Serjeant and Cynthia Osterman