Oscars: Steve McQueen Compares Diversity Issue to MTV in the 1980s

Getty Images

"I'm hoping in 12 months or so we can look back and say this was a watershed moment," says the British director.

He's already responded to the ongoing Oscars diversity controversy by suggesting last week that studio executives need to give nonwhite actors and storylines "a fair bite," but now Oscar winner Steve McQueen has stepped further into the debate.

"This is exactly like MTV was in the 1980s,” the director — the only black filmmaker to have won a best picture Academy Award — told The Guardian on Sunday. "Could you imagine now if MTV only showed music videos by a majority of white people, then after 11 o’clock it showed a majority of black people? Could you imagine that happening now? It’s the same situation happening in the movies."

McQueen said he hoped that looking back at the current debate in 20 years' time would be like "seeing that David Bowie clip in 1983," referring to an interview in which the late musician questioned the TV network for not playing enough music by black artists.

"I don't even want to wait 20 years," he added. "Forgive me — I'm hoping in 12 months or so we can look back and say this was a watershed moment, and thank God we put that right."

Echoing a wide number of comments, McQueen argued that the main issue lay not at the door of the Academy itself, but with the movies being made, suggesting that the "root of the problem" was the decisions being made by the heads of the studios and TV companies. And further down the line, away from the main stars and directors, he said there was a severe underrepresentation of minorities behind the camera, especially in the U.K.

"I made two British movies [Hunger and Shame], and I never met one person of color in any below-the-line situations," said McQueen. "Not one. No black, no Asian, no one. Like, hello? What’s going on here? Very odd."