Director Steve McQueen on Oscars Diversity Outrage: ‘Real Issue Is the Movies Being Made’

The “12 Years a Slave” director says he hopes recent outcry proves to be a “watershed moment”

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 02: Director Steve McQueen, winner of Best Picture for '12 Years a Slave', poses in the press room during the Oscars at Loews Hollywood Hotel on March 2, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images
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Steve McQueen, the only black director whose film has won a Best Picture Oscar, implored the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Hollywood studios to heed the calls for more diversity.

“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,” the “12 Years a Slave” director told the U.K.’s Guardian in a story posted online Sunday.

London-born McQueen is the latest industry insider to address the firestorm of criticism and calls for change after the Oscar nominations were announced on Jan. 14, and not a single actor of color received a nod for the second year in a row.

“Hopefully, when people look back at this in 20 years, it’ll be like seeing that David Bowie clip in 1983,” said McQueen, referring to a video widely circulated online after Bowie’s death, in which the music legend politely criticizes his MTV interviewer about that network’s under-representation of black artists.

“I don’t even want to wait 20 years,” McQueen said.

McQueen admitted he essentially agrees with director Spike Lee, who has said he will not attend the Oscars this year because of the diversity drama. Although McQueen added that the Academy Awards are “not where the real battle is.”

“One could talk about percentages of certain people who are Academy members and the demographics and so forth, but the real issue is movies being made,” said McQueen. “Decisions being made by heads of studios, TV companies and cable companies about what is and is not being made. That is the start. That is the root of the problem.”

“12 Years a Slave” was released in 2013 and won the Best Picture Oscar, becoming the first movie directed and produced by a black man to win the top honor.