LEONARDO DICAPRIO ISSUES A WARNING ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE
In 2016, the Best Actor recipient — who snagged a Best Actor Oscar for his performance in The Revenant — used his time at the podium to draw attention to environmental activism. “Making The Revenant was about man’s relationship with the natural world, a world that we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history,” said the actor. “Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.” He continued: “We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters or the big corporations, but who speak all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people who will be most affected by this, for our children’s children and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed. “
MICHAEL MOORE LASHES OUT AT PRESIDENT BUSH
In 2003, Moore won Best Documentary Feature for Bowling for Columbine. During his acceptance speech, the outspoken filmmaker challenged President George Bush’s involvement in the Iraq War and the very veracity of his presidential election win. “We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious President,” Moore said, referencing the controversial 2000 Bush v. Gore recount. “We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. We are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you,” he added, drawing both boos and cheers from the crowd.
SUSAN SARANDON & TIM ROBBINS SOUND OFF ON THE DETENTION OF HIV-POSITIVE HAITIANS
Sarandon and Robbins, then a couple, got banned from presenting at the Oscars after giving an impromptu speech while announcing the award for Best Film Editing in 1993. The duo went off-script to urge the U.S. government to close the Cuban internment camp where they were holding 250 Haitian refugees who’d tested positive for HIV. “Their crime? Testing positive for the HIV virus,” said Robbins. The pair’s ban has since been lifted.
RICHARD GERE BACKS TIBET
Gere joined Sarandon and Robbins in temporary Oscars exile after the 1993 Oscars, when, onstage to present for Best Art Direction, the actor appealed to Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. “I wondered if Deng Xiaoping is actually watching this right now, with his children and his grandchildren, and with the knowledge that what a horrendous, horrendous human-rights situation there is in China, not only towards their own people but to Tibet as well … [what if] something miraculous, really kind of movie-like, could happen here, where we could all kind of send love and truth and a kind of sanity to Deng Xiaoping right now in Beijing, that he will take his troops and take the Chinese away from Tibet and allow people to live as free independent people again.”
MARLON BRANDO SENDS SACHEEN LITTLEFEATHER TO ACCEPT HIS AWARD
The Godfather actor wasn’t at the ceremony to accept his Best Actor statue in 1973. To protest the siege at Wounded Knee and the depiction of Native Americans in television and film, he sent the president of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee, Sacheen Littlefeather, in his place. Brando gave the Apache activist a 15-page speech to read, but she saved it for the press room and instead improvised an onstage address after she was warned not to go over her time. “[Brando] very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award. And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry,” Littlefeather said, drawing a mixed reaction from the crowd, “and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee. I beg at this time that I have not intruded upon this evening and that we will in the future, our hearts and our understandings will meet with love and generosity.” The Academy banned accepting awards by proxy after the demonstration.
SEAN PENN SLAMS PROPOSITION 8
In 2009, the Milk star criticized the passing of California’s Proposition 8, which made same-sex marriage illegal in the state. “For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone,” said Penn during his Best Actor speech.
VANESSA REDGRAVE STANDS BEHIND PALESTINE
Jewish Defense League protestors stood outside the 1978 awards to denounce Redgrave, who advocated for Palestinians and had just produced and narrated The Palestinian, a documentary about Palestine. When she took to the stage to accept her award for portraying an anti-Nazi heroine in Julia, Redgrave shot back at the “Zionist hoodlums whose behavior is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world and to their great and heroic record of struggle against fascism and oppression. And I salute that record, and I salute all of you for having stood firm and dealt a final blow against that period when Nixon and McCarthy launched a worldwide witch hunt against those who tried to express in their lives and their work the truth that they believed in,” she continued. “I salute you, and I thank you, and I pledge to you that I will continue to fight against anti-Semitism and fascism.”
PATRICIA ARQUETTE CHAMPIONS WAGE EQUALITY
The actress took home the Best Supporting Actress statue for Boyhood in 2015, but not before putting Hollywood – and the country – on notice for its problem with gender equality. “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America,” Arquette said during her acceptance speech, prompting audience members – including Jennifer Lopez and Meryl Streep – to erupt in applause.
BERT SCHNEIDER READS A LETTER FROM THE NORTH VIETNAMESE
Having won Best Documentary Feature for the Vietnam War movie Hearts and Minds, the producer brought his anti-war cause to the stage. “It is ironic that we are here at a time just before Vietnam is about to be liberated,” he said. Schneider then read a telegram from Ambassador Dinh Ba Thi, who was the head of the North Vietnamese delegation at the Paris peace talks. “Please transmit to all our friends in America our recognition of all that they have done on behalf of peace and for the application of the Paris Accords on Vietnam,” he read. “These actions serve the legitimate interest of the American people and the Vietnamese people. Greetings of friendship to all the American people.”
JOHN LEGEND & COMMON ADDRESS RACIAL JUSTICE
The pair were honored with the award for Best Original Song for Selma‘s “Glory” in 2015. While the film commemorated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1965 march in Alabama, the singers used their time onstage to raise awareness about the current injustices plaguing America and declare their support for activists. “We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago, but we say that Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now,” Legend said. “We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised now in this country today. Right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850. When people are marching with our song, we want to tell you we are with you, we see you, we love you, and march on.”
CHARLES FERGUSON TAKES ON WALL STREET'S IMPUNITY
The director won an Oscar in 2011 for Inside Job, a documentary about the elements that led to the 2008 financial crash, and doubled down on the film’s message when he took to the stage. “Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by financial fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that’s wrong,” Ferguson said.
THE SMITHS BOYCOTT THE CEREMONY FOLLOWING ALL-WHITE ACTING NOMINATIONS
A number of stars spoke out against the Oscar’s lack of diversity after the Academy’s 2016 nominations failed to recognize any black actors. While Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement that she was “both heartbroken and frustrated” by the sheer whiteness of the nominees, and promised “the Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership,” Will and Jada Pinkett Smith announced they would be boycotting the awards in protest. Smith appeared on Good Morning America to discuss why he and his wife would not be attending the ceremony in the wake of the controversy. “At this current time we’re uncomfortable to stand there and say this is OK,” said Smith. “There’s going to be children who are gonna sit down and watch this show and they’re not gonna be represented.”