- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
The noble actor used his decades-long career — and distinction as one of Hollywood’s earliest Black box office stars and a history-making Oscar winner — to break down barriers for fellow Black Hollywood talent. The multihyphenate, who arrived in Hollywood in his early 20s, appeared in more than 40 films and was at one point considered American’s most recognizable Black actor. He frequently turned down projects due to their racist stereotypes and cliches during a time when roles for Black performers were limited.
Poitier would become the first Black man to win an Academy Award for best actor for his role in 1963’s Lilies of the Field, after an earlier best actor nomination, and the first for a non-white actor, for 1958’s The Defiant Ones. Poitier helped launch First Artists, spent years as a writer and director after getting an early start on Broadway, and wrote an autobiography, This Life.
Following the news of Poitier’s passing, tributes and remembrances from various entertainers and performers, as well as those in sports, politics, activism and more, flooded social media to honor the late legend.
“For over 80 years, Sidney and I laughed, cried and made as much mischief as we could,” said actor and fellow Hollywood pioneer Harry Belafonte in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “He was truly my brother and partner in trying to make this world a little better. He certainly made mine a whole lot better.”
Denzel Washington told THR, “It was a privilege to call Sidney Poitier my friend. He was a gentle man and opened doors for all of us that had been closed for years. God bless him and his family.”
Don Cheadle said he was, “Gutted. Again. Lost another royal.” He then shared an anecdote in a statement to THR, “Sir Poitier had no peer, and we’ll never see his like again. He was the standard-bearer for generations of actors/directors who came after him. The last time I saw Sidney was at a golf course in LA. I saw him across the room and walked toward him with my hand out to shake his. Ignoring my hand, he opened both of his arms wide and embraced me warmly. Then he let me go and held me at arm’s length staring me in my eyes and said in his signature cadence, ‘I dig what you do, my man.’ I almost fainted. He told me to keep it up and keep representing us. I told him I would do my best and that he was irreplaceable. We were so blessed to have him for as long as we did, and he will be sorely and surely missed.”
While Robert Redford added in a statement, “Sidney was not just a great actor, he was a civil rights giant and a dedicated humanitarian. We developed a friendship when we worked together. I appreciated his kindness, elegance and his sense of humor.”
Ted Sarandos, co-CEO and CCO of Netflix, and wife Nicole Avant — close family friends of the Poitiers who raised the funds for the Sidney Poitier lobby at the Academy Museum that opened in September — said in a statement to THR: “Today we lost one of Hollywood’s greatest legends. Sir Sidney Poitier was a fiercely elegant trailblazer and friend who set the bar unimaginably high for future generations with his courage, talent and work ethic.”
Music titan and founder of Motown records Berry Gordy said, “Today, the world has lost an icon, and I have lost one of my dearest friends, the great Sidney Poitier. He was a man of grace, integrity and someone I long admired. He is in a class by himself. He adored his family and friends, and my condolences go out to his incredible wife, Joanna, and his beautiful girls.”
In a statement, Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra called Poitier “a towering figure in Hollywood whose extraordinary talent and impact on diversity and social justice around the world cannot be overstated. We are honored to be associated with some of his most beloved and important films, including A Raisin in the Sun, To Sir, with Love, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner through Columbia Pictures. We are reminded of his influence and legacy every time we walk through the doors of the ‘Poitier Building’ on the Sony Pictures lot, where Sony Pictures Entertainment is headquartered.”
Stephen Perry, who played Travis Younger in the iconic film A Raisin in the Sun, told THR that Poitier’s presence on the set of the 1961 film was both dazzling and magnetic. “It was obvious even at my young age that I was in the presence of greatness making a very special film. I learned so much from him that I would carry with me not only during my years as an actor but throughout my life. Charm. Grace. Dignity. Equality. Family,” said Perry. “We stayed in touch over the years and it was always a delight to see each other. He invited me to attend his lifetime achievement ceremony at USC and I brought my kids. His legacy is eternal. Rest well, dear Sidney.”
Actor John Amos, who starred with Poitier in 1975’s Let’s Do It Again, spoke to the privilege of working with the late actor on the film. “Sidney was both outstanding as a dramatic and comedic actor. He shined both on-camera as well as off-camera. Because of his humble beginnings and the heights to which he rose, he was a mentor to me on the wonderful film we worked on together. He was a gifted, professional actor and a heartfelt friend who I have always admired and respected. I learned from him each time we spent time together. The world is a better place because of him. There will never be another Sidney Poitier.”
Taking to social media, Oprah Winfrey wrote, in part, “For me, the greatest of the ‘Great Trees’ has fallen.” She called him a “friend, brother, confidant” and “wisdom teacher.”
Former President Barack Obama remembered how Poitier opened doors for a generation of actors while sending love to the actor’s family from both him and former first lady Michelle. “Through his groundbreaking roles and singular talent, Sidney Poitier epitomized dignity and grace, revealing the power of movies to bring us closer together,” he tweeted.
President Joe Biden said, in part, in his statement, “Sidney was more than just one of the finest actors in our history. His iconic performances in films like The Defiant Ones, A Raisin in the Sun, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and In the Heat of the Night held a mirror up to America’s racial attitudes in the 1950s and 1960s. With unflinching grandeur and poise — his singular warmth, depth, and stature on-screen — Sidney helped open the hearts of millions and changed the way America saw itself.”
Adding, “The son of tomato farmers in the Bahamas, Sidney became the first Black man to win the Academy Award for Best Actor — but the trail he blazed extended leaps and bounds beyond his background or profession. He blazed a path for our Nation to follow, and a legacy that touches every part of our society today.”
Fellow Oscar winner Viola Davis celebrated Poitier’s talent and his work opening doors for the Black actors who followed him through his electric performances. “This is a big one. No words can describe how your work radically shifted my life. The dignity, normalcy, strength, excellence and sheer electricity you brought to your roles showed us that we, as Black folks, mattered!!!”
Director, writer and actor Tyler Perry wrote a lengthy note about Poitier’s influence and the impact of his death. “Around this time last year Cicely Tyson was releasing her book and promoting it. I had no idea she would pass away shortly thereafter,” Perry wrote. “Now, to wake up this morning to a call that Sidney Poitier has passed away…all I can tell you is that my heart broke in another place,” Perry wrote on Instagram. “The grace and class that this man has shown throughout his entire life, the example he set for me, not only as a Black man but as a human being will never be forgotten.”
Fellow Oscar winner Octavia Spencer recalled meeting him and the impact his support had on her as a performer via her Instagram. “I will never forget the occasion where I met Mr. Poitier. I had just won an award and he and Helen Mirren were walking through the kitchen to the stage to present. When I have an overload of adrenaline it has an adverse affect. I can’t bend my knees. So, there I am with my heels and an award in my hands, shell shocked and sweaty, GLARING at the two of them. I was searching for the one word to say but couldn’t remember any. I must’ve been a pitiful sight because he stopped with the biggest smile and congratulated me. I finally blurted out I love you… both. He told me he expected great things from me. There’s something about hearing those words from a pioneer that changes you!”
Michael B. Jordan called Poitier a “true legend and barrier breaker” and offered a “‘very special thank you’ for all you have done! There is no us without him.” Kerry Washington wrote, in part, “Thank you Sidney Poitier, for not only opening the door, but for walking in this world with endless grace and excellence, so that today, still, we follow behind you, reaching toward the example that you set.”
Director, musician and author Questlove remembered the Bahamian American’s influence on Black American families and civil rights activism in a tribute posted to Instagram. “You already know I can spew paragraphs of what his activism represented, especially in a time that his accolades were happening during the civil rights era — but man, this is more of a personal reflect because of the bonding his ’70s movies did for my family and I. Rest in peace. And thank you.”
Former chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Co. Bob Iger remembered Poitier as gentle and passionate, writing, “Former @disney board member Sidney Poitier was the most dignified man I’ve ever met. Towering … gentle … passionate … bold … kind … altogether special.”
SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher said in a statement, “Sidney Poitier was a brilliant and dignified actor who broke the ceiling for many actors of color that followed in his footsteps. Blessed by a long life, he remains a most respected, admired, accomplished actor by his industry peers.
“My parents met him at an event I took them to where Sidney was being honored,” Drescher continued of Poitier, who was the 36th recipient of the SAG Life Achievement Award in 1999. “My mom grabbed him, hugged him and told him what a big fan she was, how much she loved him and how gorgeous she thought he was! In true Poitier fashion, he responded with the utmost elegance and charm. Sidney you will long be remembered by your fans around the world! On behalf of his union, my deepest condolences to his family over this profound loss.”
See the tributes as they pour in, below.
Sidney Poitier 🕊 pic.twitter.com/otVjSFHaw8
— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) January 7, 2022
Through his groundbreaking roles and singular talent, Sidney Poitier epitomized dignity and grace, revealing the power of movies to bring us closer together. He also opened doors for a generation of actors. Michelle and I send our love to his family and legion of fans. pic.twitter.com/zkYKFSxfKA
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 7, 2022
This is a big one. No words can describe how your work radically shifted my life. The dignity, normalcy, strength, excellence and sheer electricity you brought to your roles showed us that we, as Black folks, mattered!!! It was an honor… https://t.co/xaPAjAlRtR pic.twitter.com/aqOmRqq7SN
— Viola Davis (@violadavis) January 7, 2022
Sidney was my inspiration, my guiding light, my friend. Sending love to Joanna and his family. pic.twitter.com/0UzVIyeJZV
— Morgan Freeman (@morgan_freeman) January 7, 2022
Sidney Poitier. What a landmark actor. One of a kind. What a beautiful, gracious, warm, genuinely regal man. RIP, Sir. With love.
(📷Sam Falk/NYT) pic.twitter.com/5ZaKxxPdxw
— Jeffrey Wright (@jfreewright) January 7, 2022
We lost an elegant King today. Thank you Sidney Poitier. For not only opening the door, but for walking in this world with endless grace and excellence, so that today, still, we follow behind you, reaching toward the example that you set. Rest In Peace and in Power. We love you. pic.twitter.com/CP2ga9KiHu
— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) January 7, 2022
If you wanted the sky i would write across the sky in letters that would soar a thousand feet high..
To Sir… with Love
Sir Sidney Poitier R.I.P.
He showed us how to reach for the stars
— Whoopi Goldberg (@WhoopiGoldberg) January 7, 2022
1/6 I couldn’t even begin this morning…Losing my dearest of brothers, Sidney Poitier, is like losing a piece of myself. We were joined at the hip from our times scraping to get by, coming up in New York in the 50’s, to achieving all of our dreams & working together in Hollywood
— Quincy Jones (@QuincyDJones) January 8, 2022
“There is a certain immortality involved in theater, not created by monuments and books, but through the knowledge an actor keeps to his dying day that on a certain afternoon, in an empty and dusty theater, he cast the shadow of a being that was not himself……..” pic.twitter.com/lVsvO5t3CJ
— Wendell Pierce (@WendellPierce) January 7, 2022
You paved the way for so many of us. Rest in Power Dear Sir. 🙏🏾🙏🏾 https://t.co/V7Tp0SaX2c
— Audra McDonald (@AudraEqualityMc) January 7, 2022
— Robert Iger (@RobertIger) January 7, 2022
#SidneyPoitier, your last sunset with us is the dawn of many generations rising in the path of light you blazed. We will always hold you in our hearts and forever speak your name. 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼❤️❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/hIKYCqM245
— Debbie Allen (@msdebbieallen) January 7, 2022
You were an incredibly beautiful, kind soul who changed the lives of so many, and a hero to all. The world was a much better place because you were in it, and we will miss you. RIP dear #SidneyPoitier 🙏🏻💔
— Billy Dee Williams (@realbdw) January 7, 2022
Sidney Poitier, the first Black man to win an Oscar, has died at the age of 94. The star of “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” and “Lilies of the Field,” for which he won Best Actor, was a trailblazer who will be mourned by so many for whom he opened the very doors of Hollywood.
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) January 7, 2022
RIP Sidney Poitier. One of the greatest actors of all time. His “In The Heat Of The Night” will always be on my top 10 film list. His line, “They call me Mr. Tibbs!” heralded in Black Power in a definitive, permanent way. It sends a thrill through my bones every time I see it.
— Stevie Van Zandt (@StevieVanZandt) January 7, 2022
Sidney Poitier. An absolute legend. One of the greats. pic.twitter.com/jd2Xd7vmIJ
— Joseph Gordon-Levitt (@hitRECordJoe) January 7, 2022
I once had the honor to shake Sidney Poitier’s hand. May he Rest in Power knowing he was loved and trailblazer in our industry who lit up the screen with his talent. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/LZixjXUAJW
— Cary Elwes (@Cary_Elwes) January 7, 2022
So long to the groundbreaking titan, Sidney Poitier pic.twitter.com/3YmpPa699U
— Elijah Wood (@elijahwood) January 7, 2022
Sidney Poitier was full of grace in every aspect of his life .. He opened doors with a BOOM that came from his gentle soul RIP ..
— Henry Winkler (@hwinkler4real) January 7, 2022
We mourn the passing of 36th SAG Life Achievement recipient Sidney Poitier. He strove to make the world a better place and understood that the art he created impacted the culture at large. We as a community of artists are poorer for having lost him. #sagaftramember since 1949 pic.twitter.com/HtfCJeWXg5
— SAG-AFTRA (@sagaftra) January 7, 2022
We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Sidney Poitier, the legendary actor, director and diplomat who led a life of remarkable achievements, both on-screen and off. pic.twitter.com/g0M2wfmq2M
— BFI (@BFI) January 7, 2022
The first Black man to win an Academy Award for Best Actor. Sidney Poitier was the catalyst in Hollywood.
We extend our deepest respect, love & admiration to his family & those who loved him.
— MACRO (@stayMACRO) January 7, 2022
Poor People's Campaign, Resurrection City, Washington, D.C., May 1968
Powerful beyond the stage and screen. pic.twitter.com/hEKRxGvoM2
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) January 7, 2022
Sidney Poitier's impact on Hollywood can't be understated. His deliberate choice to not take roles based on racial stereotypes allowed many Black Americans to see themselves truly reflected on the big screen. Today, we celebrate the legacy of a legend.
📸1963 March on Washington pic.twitter.com/ZmHuVVdCuB
— Martin Luther King III (@OfficialMLK3) January 7, 2022
We are deeply saddened by the news of trailblazer, humanitarian, and cultural icon Sidney Poitier's passing.
May his memory be a blessing.
"In my case, the body of work stands for itself… I think my work has been representative of me as a man."
— Sidney Poitier pic.twitter.com/0HTcxNnzuc
— The Black Caucus (@TheBlackCaucus) January 7, 2022
We were all so lucky to share a culture with Sidney Poitier, and benefit from his hand in shaping it. pic.twitter.com/bJaQYFCI1u
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) January 7, 2022
RIP to a true gentlemen, legend, and the first African-American Academy Award winner for Best Actor Sidney Poitier. pic.twitter.com/FsKO8nQb7l
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) January 7, 2022
RIP to the legendary actor, Sidney Poitier, shown here with Louis Armstrong and Paul Newman in the 1961 film “Paris Blues.” pic.twitter.com/pZFZ7yBZ9C
— Louis Armstrong (@ArmstrongHouse) January 7, 2022
Sir #SidneyPoitier, your brilliant light will never dim. The doors you opened and paths you created will continue to make way for those with a dream. You showed the world that with vision and grace, all is possible.
📸: Mathieu Bitton pic.twitter.com/Y0agy7P7Gg
— Lenny Kravitz (@LennyKravitz) January 7, 2022
He once caught me following him. He said “little girl what do you want” I muttered “can I have your autograph”. From that day he always called me little girl and asked if I wanted his autograph. It was something we laughed about. He was my hero & great friend. May he RIP ❤️. https://t.co/yQhuiDCZse
— Dionne Warwick (@dionnewarwick) January 7, 2022
A brilliant actor, director and activist RIP Sidney Poitier pic.twitter.com/uq1bDVQ9vO
— Sarah Cooper (@sarahcpr) January 7, 2022
Sidney was a true giant of a man – in presence and spirit – that we will greatly miss. Sending love to Joanna and the kids and grands and greats… pic.twitter.com/YMnjNkZATI
— Lori McCreary (@LoriMcCreary) January 7, 2022
Sidney Poitier was an exceptional artist and an extraordinary human being who created change and influence with grace and courage. It was a thrill to have him join in celebrating my 87th birthday and arts fundraising event. Truly one of a kind and he will be missed. pic.twitter.com/SeUxpVChjG
— Tony Bennett (@itstonybennett) January 7, 2022
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day