4:00pm PT by Chris Gardner
Elizabeth Banks Apologizes to Steven Spielberg After Calling Him Out for Lack of Female Leads
Elizabeth Banks messed up, and she is very sorry.
Those are the words Banks used in a tweet posted Thursday afternoon, a lengthy apology directed at Steven Spielberg and anyone offended by her comments on Tuesday night from the podium at Women in Film's Crystal + Lucy Awards, where she claimed Spielberg had never directed a film featuring a female lead.
"I framed my comments inaccurately. I want to be clear from the start that I take full responsibility for what I said and I'm sorry," posted Banks, who made the gaffe during her acceptance speech for the Crystal Award for Excellence in Film, presented to her by Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley. "When I made the comments, I was thinking of recent films Steven directed, it was not my intention to dismiss the import of the iconic #TheColorPurple."
The title of the 1985 film, which starred Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, was immediately shouted out to Banks when she was onstage inside the Beverly Hilton's International Ballroom on Tuesday. “I went to Indiana Jones and Jaws and every movie Steven Spielberg ever made, and by the way, he’s never made a movie with a female lead. Sorry, Steven. I don’t mean to call your ass out, but it’s true," said Banks, who was once directed by Spielberg in his 2002 film Catch Me If You Can. The attack caused a wave of ooohs in the audience, and one guest attempted to correct Banks, yelling out, "The Color Purple!"
Banks was quick to correct herself, admitting she was wrong, only to second-guess that guest: "Umm ... he directed?" He did, but another attendee claimed he didn't, so Banks replied, "Oh, so I'm right still."
She acknowledged in her tweet that Shari Belafonte, another Crystal + Lucy Awards attendee, attempted to correct her. "I made things worse by giving the impression that I was dismissing Shari Belafonte when she attempted to correct me," Banks posted in the apology. "I spoke with Shari backstage and she was kind enough to forgive me."
Now, she's turned her attention toward the public. "Those who have the privilege and honor of directing and producing films should be held to account for our mistakes, whether it's about diversity or inaccurate statements. I'm very sorry," Banks tweeted on a day when she has seen her name along with Spielberg's name on the Twitter trending charts after news of her comments spread over the past 24 hours.
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Spielberg for comment, but his rep Marvin Levy said the filmmaker could not be reached as he is currently shooting his latest project, The Papers. That film, coincidentally, stars Meryl Streep in a lead role and is inspired by The Washington Post's role in publishing the infamous study about America's part in the Vietnam War. Streep plays the Post’s Katherine Graham, the country’s first female newspaper publisher. Spielberg's most recent directorial outing, The BFG, also stars an actress in the lead role, 12-year-old Ruby Barnhill. He also helmed The Sugarland Express with Goldie Hawn, among others.
Banks' gaffe may have overshadowed the parts of her speech meant to bring the industry together.
After seeing trophies handed out to Black-ish star Tracee Ellis Ross, legendary newsman Dan Rather, filmmaker Mira Nair, Sony Pictures Classics' Tom Bernard and Michael Barker and actress Zoey Deutch, Banks was the last to take the stage. She told a story about how she hoped that women would bring more men into the filmmaking and filmgoing experience. "I am so proud that I get to raise my two boys to love women. I get to present an example of them of a working mom who loves what she does. We are creating culture. We are sending messages out to the world and those messages matter. Co-opting men and boys into that process is the only way that progress is going to happen," she offered. "We can't do it by ourselves. We need dudes. We need the guys."
See her full apology below.